As I wrote about the Lightning’s 6-2 win in Game Two, the final score in this one is not indicative of how the game was played. The Lightning did some things very well in this game, as they dominated play for stretches of time. But they also made some very costly mistakes – mistakes that led to New York goals. And Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was outstanding in making 38 saves and holding the Bolts to only one goal.
The Rangers scored the only goal in the first period. With under three minutes left, Rick Nash burst into the Lightning zone and tucked a backhander past Ben Bishop from close range. As a whole, the Lightning have been crisper than they were in the first. The Rangers played with a lot of hustle and were quick to jump on loose pucks. Still, shots on goal were even after one (7-7) and the Lightning had a couple of great scoring chances. Nikita Kucherov had a wide-open look from the slot that he put over the net and Tyler Johnson snapped a shot off the crossbar during a first period power play.
From the opening faceoff to start the second, the Lightning raised their intensity and forechecked ferociously in the Rangers end. That set the tone for much of the frame. They generated numerous scoring chances – some Lundqvist stopped, others missed the net and still others were deflected away by Ranger defenders at the last moment. Plus, a Ryan Callahan shot hit the crossbar. When Steven Stamkos tied the game with a wrister from the slot at 11:30, shots were 11-1 in favor of the Lightning in the period. Give the Rangers credit for pushing back after the Stamkos goal, however. In the minutes following that goal, both teams had some possession time in the offensive zone. Eventually, the Rangers took the lead back – and then extended it to 3-1 shortly thereafter. On both tallies, the Lightning had the puck in their own zone and turned it over. The Rangers made them pay for both miscues. On the first, Chris Kreider put in a rebound of a Kevin Klein shot. On the second, Keith Yandle right point attempt hit Victor Hedman and ricocheted into the net. In the final minutes of the period, the Lightning kept pressing and produced more chances, including several during a flurry in the final minute. But Lundqvist helped preserve the 3-1 Rangers lead. In the second period, the Lightning outshot the Rangers, 19-6. Shot attempts were 28-10 in favor of the Bolts. But the mixture of splendid play from Lundqvist, missed chances for the Lightning and the opportunistic goals for the Rangers led to the Bolts being outscored in the frame, 2-1.
The Lightning kept up the attack early in the third. But at the 4:40 mark, Nikita Nesterov took a penalty and the Rangers scored on the ensuring power play. That goal, the first in the postseason for Marty St. Louis, took much of the wind out of the Lightning’s sails. The Rangers carried most of the play for the rest of the game – and added another power play marker to set the final at 5-1.
As Jon Cooper said afterwards during his postgame press conference, the Lightning could have scored a bunch of goals during the first two periods, but didn’t. It was a strong performance from Lundqvist – and he helped the Rangers weather the storm when the Lightning were surging.
It’s now a best-of-three game series. Heading back to New York for Game Five, the Lightning must try and limit their d-zone turnovers – the miscues may have been isolated in this game (at least when the outcome was still in doubt), but still hurt them. And they must tighten up the PK, which surrendered two more goals and has now given up six in the past three games. Just as importantly, they’ll try to produce more segments like tonight’s second period. If they do, they’re going to get plenty of chances to score goals.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Kreider’s second period goal, giving the Rangers a 2-1 lead.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Henrik Lundqvist – Rangers. 38 saves. Held fort when Lightning surged.
2.Rick Nash – Rangers. Two goals.
3.Alex Killorn – Lightning. Assist. Had several scoring chances.