Playoff hero Brassard shines as Rangers force game seven

Tampa (AFP) - Derick Brassard finished with five points as New York kept their perfect record alive when facing elimination with a 7-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning to force game seven in the Eastern Conference finals.

Brassard scored a hat-trick and added two assists for the Rangers who faced their fourth elimination game this postseason and once again conquered the challenge to even the series at 3-3.

"We battled all year for home ice. Our fans deserve that game," Brassard said of the winner-take-all contest which will take place Friday at Madison Square Garden arena.

New York seized control with a three-goal surge early in the third period of Tuesday's contest in front of a crowd of 19,200 at Amalie Arena.

"We wanted a chance and we got a chance," said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault.

J.T. Miller and Rick Nash each had a goal and three assists, while James Sheppard and Keith Yandle also scored for top seeded New York, who are aiming to get back to the Stanley Cup finals after losing in five games to the Los Angeles Kings last June.

Canada's Brassard is a rare role players -- like former Edmonton Oiler Esa Tikkanen -- who is able to raise his level of play and become a key goal scorer in the postseason.

Brassard has never scored 20 goals in the regular season but in 53 career playoff games he has 17.

The Rangers line of Brassard, Miller and Nash combined for five goals in a dominating evening.

- 'On the same page' -

"We just made plays," Brassard said. "We were hungry on the puck ... we were on the same page."

Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist improved to 15-3 all-time in elimination games as he stopped 36 shots for New York.

New York has also won 14 of the last 17 playoff games in which they have faced elimination, dating back to a 2012 series against the Ottawa Senators. New York has won eight of nine playoff games when facing elimination since the start of last season's playoffs.

New York made it 3-1 at 3:02 into the third period off a two-on-one break that saw the initial two shots stopped. Brassard then collected his own rebound behind the net and got it out front to Miller, who banked it in off Lightning goalie Ben Bishop.

Just under three minutes later, New York went up 4-1 after Dominic Moore blasted it on net from the slot before Sheppard banged it in.

Brassard then made it a 5-1 at 7:14 when he wristed a shot from the right face-off circle.

Nikita Kucherov scored twice and Ryan Callahan had the other goal for the Lightning, who are looking to reach the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since winning it 11 years ago.

Tampa Bay made their only trip to the finals in 2004, when they defeated Calgary in a thrilling seven-game tussle.

Bishop surrendered five goals on 26 shots, while Andrei Vasilevskiy gave up one goal on seven shots in relief.