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Rangers Hold off Lightning and Take 2-0 Series Lead Back to Tampa

For the first time since 2019 the Tampa Bay Lightning have lost back-to-back postseason games. For the first 35 minutes the Rangers beat Tampa Bay at their own game. They were quick, crisp with the puck and played good defense. On the flip side, the Lightning looked sow, turned the puck over, had numerous defense collapses and gave up a ton of odd-man rushes. Despite coming to life late in the second and third it was too little too late as the Rangers would hold on and put the in a 2-0 hole.

Sloppy First

Tampa Bay still seemed to be shaking off the rust early on in game 2. They seemed slow and their timing was off. However it was the Lightning that would strike first. On what would be their only powerplay goal of the game. Nikita Kucherov would let one go from the circle past a a Corey Perry screen and Igor Shesterkin.

However from this point onward things would go south for Tampa Bay. In addition to being slow, their passing was off and they turned the puck over a ton. This would eventually lead to the Lightning chasing New York in the offense zone. Just under six minutes into the first a blocked shot popped right to K’Andre Miller. Miller fired a wrister past Andrei Vasilevskiy to tie the game at one. Chasing the pace of play the Lightning would take consecutive penalties which gave the Rangers momentum. It swung possession and shots well in favor of New York. Eventually it would cause another breakdown and a late period goal against.

It came from what has been one of the Ranger’s best lines throughout this postseason, “the kid line”. The line of Kaapo Kakko Alexis Lafreniere and Filip Chytil were more than the Lightning could handle in game one and would strike again in game two. After a failed setup for Lafreniere, Adam Fox would feed a excellent pass through the feet of Jan Rutta to Kakko who was wide open at the far post for a tip in. It gave New York a 2-1 lead and one they would hold on to.

Signs of Life

Down 2-1 one would expect the Lightning to start picking things up, but they didn’t right away. For much of the second period the Lightning continued to struggle with puck management and limiting the Rangers chances. New York had tons of odd man rushes. Vasilevskiy made some key saves to keep New York off the board, but it was clear that the game was going against the Lightning. With about five minutes left in the period, Tampa Bay finally started to manage the puck well and cleanly breakout of their own end. This would result in the Lightning getting some zone time. However, the Rangers’ defense stifled them at every turn. Their best opportunities at chances came off of rebounds, but New York’s defense was there to either tie up Lightning sticks. It was the best stretch of play from Tampa Bay in the game yet but the Rangers were able to hold on to their one goal lead.

Rangers Hold On

After finishing the period strong, it finally seemed like the Lightning had some signs of life. They were able to do a lot of things well in the third that they were unable to do in the first two periods. They significantly cut down on their turnovers, moved the puck well and as result started spending much more time in the New York end. However, one of their few turnovers would be extremely costly. Kucherov would throw a blind pass into the neutral zone that bounced off Chris Krieder and right to Adam Fox. Across the blueline with a 3-on-2, Fox sent a pass cross ice to Mika Zibanejad who fired a perfect shot past the blocker of Vasilevskiy.

Down two, the Lightning would ramp things up and finally broke through with an extra attacker goal from Nick Paul. With 2:02 to go it not only gave the Lightning some confidence but more than enough time to grab a potential tying goal. In that final few minutes Tampa Bay gave the Rangers all they could handle and came close multiple times. Steven Stamkos had two wide open opportunities with about a minute to go and couldn’t cash in. Then in the final 30 seconds, Ondrej Palat tipped a shot just wide of the net. Much like the Lightning have done in their previous series, the Rangers bent but didn’t break. They got some key saves from Shesterkin and blocked shots as they were able to hold on to take a 2-0 series lead.

Three Stars

3rd Star: Igor Shesterkin – Key saves in the third, 29 saves on 31 shots.

2nd Star: Chris Krieder –  2 assist including game winner.

1st Star: Adam Fox – 2 Assists including go-ahead and game-winning goal.

Road Ahead

The Lightning will have a steep hill to climb as the series shifts back to Tampa Bay for games three and four on Sunday and Tuesday. In addition to the Lightning showing signs of life late in the game, the Rangers record on the road must be noted. Although New York has won eight in-a-row at home, they are 2-5 on the road. If the Lightning play like they did in third period, there is a clear path to leveling the serious before possible heading back to the big apple.

 

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