NEW YORK – The Tampa Bay Lightning finally shut down the New York Rangers’ offense, got another star performance from Steven Stamkos and are now one win away from playing for the Stanley Cup for the first time since winning it in 2004.
The Bolts won Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final, 2-0, on Sunday night at MSG, taking a 3-2 series lead. Goalie Ben Bishop, who had surrendered 10 goals in his last two games, rebounded with a strong 26- save effort. Part of that effort was as the last line of defense on a penalty kill that shutout the Rangers on four power plays, after New York had entered the game red hot with the man advantage.
Stamkos has a goal and an assist, giving the captain seven points in his last four games.
Yet for the most part, the Lightning played a sloppy and ineffective game before finally breaking through with the game’s first goal at 13:29 of the second period. They were getting outshot, turning the puck over in their own zone. They handed the Rangers four power plays, including two in a 4:32 span; but they managed to kill them all despite New York’s man advantage having gone four for its last eight.
But that was all a distant memory after Anton Stralman connected on a Hail Mary pass to Steven Stamkos into the Rangers’ zone, who then fed the puck to Valtteri Filppula for blast past Henrik Lundqvist and the 1-0 lead. It was his third goal of the playoffs.
Then Rangers defenseman Marc Staal went off for tripping at 17:04, and the Lightning had a golden chance to extend their lead heading into the third period.
They capitalized, in spectacular fashion.
Ondrej Palat did yeoman’s work keeping the puck alive in the zone before sending a cross-ice backhand pass to his linemate Nikita Kucherov and then cutting to the slot. Kucherov saw that, and passed back to Palat after taking a few strides towards the net. Palat drew Dan Girardi from the front of the net, leaving Stamkos alone. Palat hit him with a pass, and he had the hockey equivalent of an alley-oop dunk for a 2-0 lead at 18:22 of the second.
It was Stamkos’s seventh of the postseason, and the fourth straight game he tallied a goal.
The Lightning were 7-0-0 in the playoffs when leading after two periods. They were 33-0-2 in the regular season. That trend held in the third, as the Rangers couldn't solve Bishop.
The Rangers, the reigning Eastern Conference champs, face elimination on Tuesday night. And it won’t be easy eliminating them: Lundqvist is 14-3 since 2012 when the Rangers face elimination in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
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