Posts Tagged ‘2022 NHL Eastern Conference Finals’

The Tampa Bay Lightning eliminated the New York Rangers with a 2-1 victory in Game 6 on Saturday to reach the Stanley Cup Final for the third consecutive season.

Tampa Bay will take on the Colorado Avalanche in the final looking to become the first NHL team to three-peat since the New York Islanders’ dynasty of the early 1980s.

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos scored both goals in the dramatic win. His second came 21 seconds after the Rangers’ Frank Vatrano tied the contest with 6:53 remaining in the third period.

“It’s just going out and just playing as hard as you can for the next guy that sits beside you in that locker room,” Stamkos said, per NHL.com’s Chris Krenn. “That’s why this group is so special.”

Stamkos added: “We trust every guy that goes over those boards to do his job. Whether you score a goal or not, it’s the little things that you do. It’s the defending. It’s the blocked shots. It’s the sacrifice. It’s not complaining about your role.”

Superstar goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy made 20 stops in the win to continue his postseason dominance. In his last eight series-clinching games, the reigning Conn Smythe winner has a .991 save percentage along with a 0.25 goals-against average and six shutouts.

The Lightning became just the third team in league history to win at least 11 consecutive playoff series. The Islanders (19 from 1980-83) and Montreal Canadiens (13 from 1976-79) are the only teams to have won more.

The Stanley Cup Final is set to begin Wednesday in Denver.

Colorado finished the regular season as the top team in the Western Conference with 119 points. The club is 12-2 so far in the playoffs.

“Probably the best team in the league,” Stamkos said of the Avalanche, according to The Athletic’s Joe Smith. “We’re going to have our hands full.”

The Tampa Bay Lightning are one win away from returning to the Stanley Cup Final after beating the New York Rangers on Thursday night to nab a 3-2 series lead.

The home team had won every game in the Eastern Conference Final heading into Game 5, but the Bolts bucked that trend with a 3-1 win at Madison Square Garden.

Ondrej Palat scored the game-winner for Tampa Bay after he got a piece of defenseman Mikhail Sergachev‘s shot with less than two minutes remaining in regulation. Forward Brandon Hagel sealed the victory with an empty-netter.

Sergachev led the way for the Lightning, recording the team’s first goal of the contest and a helper.

Rangers blue-liner Ryan Lindgren opened the scoring midway through the second period. That was the only time New York put the puck past Lightning star goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who dazzled with a 24-save performance.

Igor Shesterkin also played well, making 24 stops on 26 shots.

Game 6 is set for Saturday in Tampa Bay as the Lightning will attempt to get one step closer to claiming their third consecutive Stanley Cup.

The Tampa Bay Lightning delivered on a promise to play with a greater sense of urgency, storming back in the Eastern Conference finals against the New York Rangers and keeping their bid for a third straight Stanley Cup title alive.

Nikita Kucherov scored on a breakaway and Andrei Vasilevskiy had 33 saves Tuesday night, helping the two-time defending NHL champions shut down the Rangers 4-1 and even the best-of-seven series at two games apiece.

“We’ve got ourselves squared up in this series. It’s great, much better than the position we were in a couple days ago. But this is where it gets down to the really tough stuff,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said.

“These next couple of games, we have to go on the road and we have to find a way to win a game in their barn,” Stamkos added. “We’re looking forward to that challenge, but I really like where our game is now compared to where it was a couple days ago.”

Kucherov took a pass from Ondrej Palat in the middle of the ice and skated in on goaltender Igor Shesterkin to give the Lightning a two-goal lead just over 13 minutes into the second period.

With Vasilevskiy back on his game following a slow start to the series, that turned out to be more than enough offensive support to hold off a Rangers team that’s suddenly found it difficult to score.

“They did a great job in the neutral zone. They collapsed pretty good in the ‘D’ zone. They blocked a lot of shots. They did the right things to win a hockey game,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said of the Lightning.

Stamkos, Palat and Pat Maroon had goals for Tampa Bay, which has rebounded from losing the first two games of the series on the road to bolster its chances of becoming the first team in nearly 40 years to win three consecutive Stanley Cup championships.

Game 5 is Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, where the Rangers won Games 1 and 2 and are 8-1 this postseason.

“We’ve done a good job at home. I think if you look around the league a lot of teams play better in their home building,” Gallant said.

“I’m disappointed tonight. I’m sure (the players) are,” the coach added. “But it’s a best two out of three, we still have the home-ice advantage, so we have to make sure we’re ready for the next game. The next one is big.”

Vasilevskiy stopped 28 of 30 shots to win Game 3 and was even better Tuesday night, when he extended a stretch in which he did not give up a goal to nearly 67 minutes before New York’s Artemi Panarin scored on the power play at 16:27 of the third period.

Until Vasilevskiy’s bid for a shutout ended, the Rangers hadn’t scored since Chris Kreider’s power-play goal put them up 2-0 at 9:44 of the second period in Game 3.

It has been all Tampa Bay since then, with Kucherov and Stamkos scoring to wipe out the Game 3 deficit before Palat won it in the final minute.

The defending champs started faster Tuesday night, scoring on Maroon’s rebound just 2:38 into the game.

It was the third goal of the playoffs for Maroon, a 34-year-old, fourth-line forward who’s chasing a fourth consecutive Stanley Cup title after winning with St. Louis in 2019 and signing with Tampa Bay before the following season.

Stamkos’ goal built the lead to 3-0 early in the third period. Palat added an empty-netter with 8.7 seconds remaining, finishing with a goal and two assists.

Shesterkin, who faced 51 shots in Game 3, stopped 27 of 30 shots Tuesday night.

“We’ve progressively gotten better, and I think we took some more positive steps tonight,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “We had a bit of a layoff, and I think now we’re starting to find our game. Now, we just have to keep this going in New York.”

NOTES: The Rangers played without forward Ryan Strome (lower body), who was scratched after skating in pregame warmups. He was injured Sunday, when he exited in the second period after only playing a little over seven minutes. … New York forward Filip Chytil left just past the midpoint of the second period after a hit by Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman. He missed the rest of the game with an upper-body injury. … The Lightning played for the seventh straight game without forward Brayden Point, who has been out of the lineup since suffering a lower-body injury during Game 7 of Tampa Bay’s first-round victory over Toronto.

Just when it appeared the New York Rangers might be ready to push Tampa Bay to the brink of elimination, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning showed they were nowhere near finished.

Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos scored to wipe out a two-goal deficit, and Ondrej Palat finished a dramatic comeback with the 10th winning playoff goal of his career Sunday in a 3-2 victory that cut the Rangers’ lead in the Eastern Conference final to 2-1.

“We’ve been in spots like this,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “A big thing for us was, we felt we had a recipe, we just had to stay with it. I think there were times in the series where we’ve tried to manufacture things that weren’t there that put us on our heels, gave up opportunities. Whether it was a break, whatever it was, we weren’t in sync.”

Palat scored with 42 seconds left, off a nifty back pass from Kucherov, to cap a rally that began after Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider scored power-play goals in a span of just over two minutes to put the Rangers up 2-0 in the second period.

Facing the prospect of falling behind 3-0 in a series that began with a pair of losses on the road, the Lightning fought back with Kucherov scoring on the power play in the second period and Stamkos blistering a shot past goalie Igor Shesterkin from the left circle early in the third.

“We were down 2-0, and I don’t want to sit here and say we didn’t deserve to be down 2-0 because their power play has been great. …. But our 5-on-5 game I liked, and so we just needed to stick with that and stay out of the box,” Cooper said.

“I think in maybe years past — three, four years ago — maybe panic would’ve set in at some point, but not with this group. The power play got us going, and then we took off from there. But no question the ‘been there before’ has really helped our mindset in games.”

Kucherov had a goal and two assists.

Stamkos had a multi-point game, too, with a goal and an assist. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 28 shots after being outplayed by Shesterkin in Games 1 and 2.

“They were the better team tonight overall,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. “It went right down to the wire and had a chance to win late. … Disappointing ,but we’ll move on and get ready for the next one.”

Game 4 is Tuesday night, with Tampa Bay looking to even the best-of-seven series and New York still in a position to move within one victory of its first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 2014.

Artemi Panarin had two assists for the Rangers, and Adam Fox and Zibanejad had primary helpers on power-play goals resulting from a pair of penalties drawn by Shesterkin in the second period.

Tampa Bay’s Corey Perry was whistled for slashing on the first, and Riley Nash went to penalty box for interference before Kreider’s goal made it 2-0 midway through the period.

Despite taking some costly penalties that helped the Lightning get back in the game, and ultimately being unable to hold on to the lead, Gallant didn’t feel as though the Rangers let the game slip away.

“No, I didn’t sense that. Honestly. It was 2-0, there was a lot of hockey game left and they were playing well,” the New York coach said. “They were jumping. They were forcing us to make mistakes that we didn’t make in the prior two games. … I wouldn’t say we let it get away because they played really well. But we could have stolen it tonight and been up 3-0.”

Cooper cited poor puck management and the lack of a sense of urgency as factors in Tampa Bay starting the series slowly following a nine-day layoff the defending champs earned with a second-round sweep of the Presidents Trophy-winning Florida Panthers.

Neither of those were problems once the Lightning fell behind by two goals Sunday.

Shesterkin finished with 48 saves, but the Rangers wasted an opportunity to regain control of the game when Kucherov drew a four-minute penalty for high-sticking Zibanejad with just over nine minutes left.

In fact, New York lost the man-advantage when Jacob Trouba subsequently was penalized for tripping Tampa Bay’s Alex Killorn.

Shesterkin made save after save to keep the Rangers from falling behind, but couldn’t get his glove up high enough to stop Palat’s winner.

“The third period for us just wasn’t good enough,” Fox said. “We were on our heels the whole time. Eventually they’re going to get one, and they did.”

Tampa Bay, which hadn’t lost consecutive playoff games in three years before dropping Games 1 and 2 at Madison Square Garden, rallied from a 3-2 deficit to win its first-round series against Toronto in seven games.

NOTES: Lightning Brayden Point missed his sixth consecutive game with a lower body injury. He hasn’t played since leaving the lineup during Tampa Bay’s Game 7 victory over Toronto in the first round. … Rangers forward Ryan Strome left with an early injury, winding up playing a little more than seven minutes. … The Rangers lost to the Lightning for the first time this season. They entered Sunday 5-0 against the defending champ, with three of the wins coming during the regular season. … New York is 8-1 at home during the playoffs compared to 2-6 on the road.

The New York Rangers handed the Tampa Bay Lightning their first back-to-back playoff loss since 2019 with a 3-2 Game 2 win Friday night.

Prior to falling into a 2-0 series hole in the Big Apple, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions had won 17 straight playoff games immediately following a loss within the same postseason.

The last time the Bolts lost two consecutive playoff contests was when the Columbus Blue Jackets swept them in the first round three seasons ago.

“It’s been a heck of a ride in terms of responding after losses in the past couple of years. It shows the character of this group. It’s the hardest trophy to win,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said, according to Bally Sports’ Gabby Shirley. “You’re going (to) come across some adverse moments, and this is certainly one of them.”

New York recorded its franchise-best eighth consecutive home playoff victory in the 2022 postseason.

The Lightning made it interesting after Nick Paul scored to draw them within one with two minutes remaining, but the Rangers shut the door and sent the Madison Square Garden faithful home happy.

Rangers forward Mika Zibanejad‘s snipe early in the third period stood as the eventual game-winner.

Bolts star Nikita Kucherov opened the scoring on the power play in the first frame, but Rangers defenseman K’Andre Miller responded just over three minutes later. Kaapo Kakko gave his team a 2-1 edge heading into the first intermission, and New York didn’t relinquish the lead for the remainder of the contest.

Rangers veteran Chris Kreider and defenseman Adam Fox chipped in with two assists each.

Fox noted that the Lightning’s impressive run wasn’t on his teammates’ minds entering Game 2.

“We’re not thinking about what streaks teams have. … We’re just trying to bring it, day in and day out,” Fox said, per USA Today’s Vince Z. Mercogliano.

The Eastern Conference Final was largely billed as a goaltending battle, and so far, Igor Shesterkin is outperforming Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Shesterkin stopped 29 of the 31 shots he faced for a .935 save percentage in Game 2. Vasilevskiy uncharacteristically struggled, stopping 25 of 28 shots to author an .893 clip.

“We get a chance to come back in front of our fans, and let’s start with next game, and we’ll go from there,” Stamkos said, according to Shirley. “This is a resilient group, and we need to get back to our identity. … We got to buckle down a little bit defensively.”

Puck drops on Game 3 at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday as the series shifts to Tampa Bay.

Filip Chytil has found his scoring touch and it’s helping the New York Rangers get on quite a roll.

Chytil scored twice in the second period and the Rangers routed the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning 6-2 on Wednesday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

After scoring eight goals in 67 games during the regular season, the 22-year-old center has seven in 15 playoff games — including five goals in the last three.

“I was working hard for the whole season,” Chytil said. “There were tough moments, so many chances but I couldn’t put it in the net. … When you’re not putting pucks to the net you’re not helping the team that much and maybe start to be a little frustrated. But now it’s finally going in, I am so happy I can help the team like this in winning the games.”

Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin and Frank Vatrano each had a goal and an assist, Chris Kreider also scored and Alexis Lafrenière and Adam Fox each had two assists to help New York win its franchise-record seventh straight home playoff game. Igor Shesterkin stopped 37 shots to improve to 8-3 in the last 11 games.

The Rangers have totaled 17 goals while winning their last three games after scoring nine over the previous five.

“There was a lot of sharpness,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. “Obviously, (the Lightning) were a little bit rusty tonight, they weren’t the same after nine days off. … Our game’s good, we’re playing well, we’re doing the right things now. We just got to continue to do that.”

Steven Stamkos had a goal and an assist, and Ondrej Palat also scored for Tampa Bay, which had won six straight and was playing for the first time since completing its second-round sweep of Florida on May 23. Andrei Vasilevskiy, who gave up just three goals in four games against the Panthers, had 28 saves.

“You’ve got to give them credit. They are a really good hockey team,” Stamkos said. “We certainly didn’t have our best. I think we know what we have to do better. Been in this position before. I am confident we will have a better effort next game. It’s Game 1 of a long series.”

Game 2 is Friday night at Madison Square Garden.

The score was tied 1-1 after 20 minutes before the Rangers took control in the second period.

Vatrano gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead at 7:50 of the second as he fired a shot from the left circle past Vasilevskiy high on the blocker side for his fourth of the postseason.

Palat tied it at 8:32, backhanding the rebound of a shot by Stamkos past Shesterkin for his fifth of the playoffs.

The Rangers regained the lead 1:19 later. Kaapo Kakko brought the puck from behind the Lightning net to the goalie’s right and sent a pass to Chytil in slot that he fired past Vasilevskiy. It marked the third straight game Chytil scored.

Chytil made it 4-2 with 4:17 left as he got a cross-ice pass from K’Andre Miller and fired a one-timer past Vasilevskiy for his seventh of the postseason — and fifth in three games.

Panarin got a cross-ice pass from Andrew Copp in the left circle on a 2-on-1 and fired it past Vasilevskiy to give the Rangers a three-goal lead 30 seconds into the third. It was his fifth of the playoffs.

Less than two minutes later, Shesterkin made two big saves during a Lightning power play, and was down on the ice for several minutes after getting hit in the head by Stamkos after the second save.

Zibanejad made it 6-2 at 6:06 after extended time in the offensive zone on a power play, firing a one-timer from the left circle off a pass from Panarin for his eighth of the playoffs. It gave the Rangers a goal with the man advantage for the sixth straight game, tying a franchise playoff record, previously accomplished in 1986 and 1990.

“You just try to be ready for any pass,” Zibanejad said. “It worked out today, so it’s good. Biggest thing was it went in.”

With much of the focus coming into this series centered on the goalies, the Madison Square Garden crowd began chants of “I-gor’s bet-ter! I-gor’s bet-ter!” midway through the third period.

“They played a good game,” Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said. “They are rolling. We expected that … You never want to lose two in a row. To bounce back is going to be huge.”

Tempers flared with less than two minutes remaining as several skirmishes broke out in one corner. Ten players received penalties — including two on the Rangers’ Barclay Goodrow — to put Tampa Bay on a power play to finish the game.

Kreider got the Rangers on the scoreboard first 1:11 into the game on the game’s first shot on goal, scoring off a cross-ice pass from Zibanejad on a 2-on-1 from the inside edge of the left circle for his ninth goal of the postseason.

Stamkos tied it at 7:19 as he fired a slap shot from the high slot just under the crossbar for his fifth of the playoffs.

STATS

Zibanejad extended his points streak to six games with five goals and five assists in the stretch. … The Rangers have scored six goals in consecutive playoff games for the first time since their Cup-winning run in 1994.

CLIMBING LISTS

Kreider has 51 postseason points, tying Walt Tkaczuk for the fifth place in New York franchise history. His 33rd postseason goal moved one behind Rod Gilbert for the most in franchise history.