NEW YORK – The Tampa Bay Lightning emphatically thumped the New York Rangers in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Final, as a Tyler Johnson hat trick and four special teams goals fueled a 6-2 victory to even their series at 1-1.
It was the first time in 14 postseason contests that the Rangers didn’t play a one-goal game. It was the first time goalie Henrik Lundqvist had given up four or more goals since Game 2 of their first-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Overall, Lundqvist had given up two goals or fewer in 11 of 13 games, but the Lightning got through him in Game 2, thanks to a dynamic performance by the playoffs’ leading goal scorer.
Johnson was as good as it gets in a playoff performance for the Lightning, notching the first playoff hat trick in franchise history. He went to the net hard twice for goals and sniped another, getting three-fifths of the “Mario Lemieux Hat Trick” – scoring shorthanded, on the power play and at even strength. He also made tremendous little plays throughout the game, at one point hitting Marc Staal (who has about five inches on him) after losing his stick, and then kicking the puck to Steven Stamkos for an offensive chance.
It was a penalty-laden affair from the start, with seven minor penalties in the first period alone. (There were six minor penalties called during the entire 60 minutes of Game 1). The Lightning were 3-for-6 on the power play, while the Rangers were 2-for-5 with the man advantage.
The Rangers were on the power play when the Lightning took a 1-0 lead at 5:38 of the first period on a rarity: a shorthanded breakaway on a 5-on-3 penalty kill.
With Brian Boyle (holding) and Jason Garrison (delay of game) in the box, Dan Boyle hit Marty St. Louis in the high slot with a pass that would have left the Rangers winger wide open for a chance. Instead, he lost an edge and two Lightning forwards were off to the races: Johnson on the breakaway, with Alex Killorn trailing.
With St. Louis hustling back to defend, Johnson fired a shot on Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who made the save; but the puck rebounded to Johnson’s skate as he crashed the net. It crossed the goal line before a diving St. Louis knocked the net off its moorings, and the Lightning had their first lead of the series.
Video review overturned the ruling on the ice, which was no-goal initially.
It was short-lived, thanks to a power-play goal by Chris Kreider at 8:50 – assisted by Boyle and St. Louis, of course.
The Lightning took the lead again with another special teams goal, again from Johnson during a 4-on-3 power play.
Steven Stamkos fired a shot that was blocked by Dan Girardi, but it trickled back to the Lightning sniper. With Girardi and St. Louis attempting to clear the puck by any means necessary – this should not have been a two-man job – that left Tyler Johnson alone to Lundqvist’s right. He patiently snapped a high shot past him for the 2-1 lead at 11:15.
Johnson completed the hat trick at 8:17 of the second period. On a rush with linemates Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov, he crashed the net to tap in a bouncing puck off a Palat shot past Lundqvist. The play was reviewed; it was another good goal for Johnson, his 11th of the postseason.
The Rangers cut it to 3-2 on – wait for it – another penalty on the Lightning, as Cedric Paquette went off for interference.
Ben Bishop came out to challenge a Dan Boyle shot, but then lost the puck after making the save. It traveled to Derek Stepan behind the net, who banked it off Braydon Coburn as the defenseman was sliding into the net to cut the lead to 3-2. Victor Hedman saved a goal on a similar play moments later.
The Lightning added to their lead in the third period, just as yet another power play ended. Victor Hedman looked locked into firing a shot at Lundqvist, but instead found Killorn for a wide open net goal at 3:09. The Rangers’ Staal and Dan Girardi were in front of Lundqvist, neither of them picking up the Lightning forward as he curled around the net and set up on Lundqvist’s left. Hedman’s pass, with a Ranger sprawled in front of him, was perfection.
It was 5-2 after Steven Stamkos tipped home a puck past Lundqvist at 6:28. Spoiler warning: It was on yet another power play. Nikita Kucherov assisted on that goal and had three helpers for the game.
Killorn's second of the game at 17:58 iced it. Yes, it too was on the power play, as Tanner Glass was in the box for roughing.
The Rangers still had the better of the puck possession for the game at 5-on-5, but Bishop was a good – if somewhat too adventurous at times – last line of defense, making 35 saves.
Boyle and St. Louis both had a pair of assists for New York, but also finished at a minus-2.
Game 3 is in Tampa Bay on Wednesday night.
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