This was an old-school shootout, bringing back memories of games played 30 years ago. Both teams had segments in this game when they carried momentum and generated numerous scoring chances. Both teams rallied from two-goal deficits and the both clubs scored goals late in the third period. When it was all said-and-done, though, the Lightning had put six goals past Henrik Lundqvist for the second straight game and had grabbed a 2-1 series lead.
While it’s true that both teams had strong segments in this game, the Lightning were, as a whole, the more dangerous team tonight. They outshot the Rangers, 40-28, and, if not for Lundqvist, might have scored more than six goals. They played a physical game, which helped them take away pucks in the New York end and maintain possession in the offensive zone. And they had a shooting mentality, something that has been missing at points during these playoffs (the Bolts had been uncharacteristically outshot in eight of their nine previous games).
But the Bolts didn’t play a perfect game either. They made some costly mistakes, including taking a penalty in the opening minute of the first. Derek Brassard scored on the ensuing man advantage, giving the Rangers an early lead. Then, after Matt Carle was injured in an open ice collision with Derek Stepan, the Lightning were burned on a slow change on defense. The Bolts had only four players on the ice (and one of them, Carle, was struggling to get to the bench) when Jesper Fast burst up the middle on a breakaway and extended the New York lead.
There were several key turning points in this game – and one of them came shortly after that Fast goal. Steven Stamkos, who was credited with seven hits in the game, checked Dan Boyle in the Lightning d-zone. That forced a turnover and Alex Killorn tried to counter on a breakaway. His shot was disrupted from a pursuing Ranger, but it still slid in on Lundqvist. Lundqvist swatted it right to Stamkos, who buried the rebound. The goal came 1:12 after Fast’s goal and cut the deficit to 2-1.
The Rangers surged early in the second, aided by two Lightning penalties. But the Bolts killed them both off and once the second infraction ended, regained momentum. Within a couple of minutes, they went on the power play themselves and tied the score. Tyler Johnson executed a perfect give-and-go play with Ondrej Palat off the rush. Palat finished his shot from in-close to tie the score.
From that point until late in the period, the Lightning took over the game. They added two more goals to take a 4-2 lead. First, during a four-on-four, Victor Hedman rushed the puck behind the New York net and set up Palat at the right circle. Palat slipped the puck in front to Johnson, who finished from point-blank range. Then, with under three minutes left in the frame, Killorn skated into the Rangers zone, pulled up in the slot and roofed a shot over Lundqvist’s glove.
But just as the Lightning answered shortly after falling behind by two goals, the Rangers did as well. On the shift after the Killorn goal, Fast put in a rebound to cut the Lightning lead to 4-3. Like the Stamkos goal in the first, Fast’s second tally was also a momentum changer.
The Rangers drew a penalty early in the third and tied the score off the ensuing power play. Kevin Hayes made a terrific cross-ice pass to Ryan McDonagh, who zipped a shot from the right circle over Bishop. The Rangers enjoyed a momentum surge for the next several minutes, but didn’t take the lead. Then, the Lightning pushed back. The Rangers committed several icing infractions due to Lightning pressure and much of the middle part of the period was spent in the Rangers d-zone. With just under six minutes left, Palat struck again. Off the rush, he took a pass from Nikita Nesterov, skated to the right circle, darted in front and wristed a shot past Lundqvist’s stick.
But the Lightning couldn’t hold the lead. The Rangers didn’t have much going until they worked the puck into the Lightning end with just over two minutes left. The Bolts stole the puck, but iced it. It proved to be a costly icing. The Rangers won the faceoff and a shot from Keith Yandle led to a rebound goal for Dan Boyle. That tally tied the game with 1:56 left.
Early in OT, the Rangers had a couple of shifts in which they buzzed around the Lightning end. But neither of their two OT shots were as threatening as the Lightning’s first OT attempt. J.T. Brown broke in from center ice on a breakaway, but Lundqvist made the save. Lundqvist wouldn’t stop the second Lightning shot in OT, however. At the end of a shift for the Triplets line, Nikita Kucherov sped into the offensive zone and whistled a high wrist shot from the slot over Lundqvist’s stick.
This was a wildly entertaining game filled with dramatic moments, lead changes, open looks and lots of goals. Exactly what we don’t expect to see in a playoff game! As I wrote at the top, despite some of the mistakes they made, the Lightning, as a whole, were the more dangerous team tonight. They had a big shot advantage. They were the more physical team. They had more of the scoring chances. And ultimately, more of the goals.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Kucherov’s winning goal in OT.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Nikita Kucherov – Lightning. GWG in OT, assist.
2.Ondrej Palat – Lightning. Two goals and assist.
3.Alex Killorn and Victor Hedman – Lightning. Goal, assist and team-high nine shots for Killorn. Two assists and team-high 28:26 TOI for Hedman.