In every series during the Tampa Bay Lightning’s current Stanley Cup Playoffs run, the Lightning have followed convincing victories in Game 2 with a letdown in Game 3.
In the First Round versus Detroit, the Lightning leveled the series with a 5-1, Game 2 victory only to go on the road and get shutout in Game 3.
That scenario repeated in the Second Round. The Bolts blew out the Canadiens 6-2 to take both opening games in Montreal but were mediocre in Game 3 at home, bailed out when Tyler Johnson scored with 1.1 seconds remaining in regulation.
The Lightning will try to avoid a similar fate tonight when they host the New York Rangers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final at Amalie Arena. The series is tied 1-1 after the Bolts exploded for six goals Monday in a 6-2 win in Game 2 at Madison Square Garden.
“I think we’re getting better at (playing consistenly),” said Lightning goalie Ben Bishop, who made 35 saves in Game 2 to win his ninth game of the postseason. “You can’t be too high after a win. Obviously, we know we’re playing a really good team over there, so we’ve got to be ready at home. We know they’re going to be hungry after the last game, so I don’t think we should be surprised at all.”
The Lightning did what they needed to do in New York: get a split out of the first two games and swing the home-ice advantage in their favor.
Now, it’s a matter of executing at home, which the Bolts were able to do during the regular season but not so much in the postseason. Tampa Bay won 32 games at Amalie Arena -- the most in the NHL and a new franchise high -- during the regular season but are just 4-3 at home in the playoffs.
“We definitely have to take care of these two home games,” Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman said. “We’re playing a really good team that it seems like is just getting better and better as the series moves on. We have to take care of this chance we have now coming out of a split from New York and make sure we prepare and execute on top of our game and ability.”
Alex Killorn hasn’t garnered the headlines or attention of some of his more popular teammates, guys like NHL playoff scoring leader Tyler Johnson or captain Steven Stamkos, but the left winger has quietly had one of the best postseasons of anybody still playing hockey at this point of the season.
Killorn registered the first multi-goal game of his postseason career, scoring twice in the third period in Game 2 and adding an assist on Johnson’s opening goal for three points Monday. He has at least one point in nine of the Bolts’ 15 playoff games.
“I think he’s been a rock for us, honestly,” Stralman said. “He works really hard finishing checks, playing physical, scoring. It seems like he’s always on the score sheet at the end of the game somehow, picking up points. He really contributes to our team right now, and it’s really great to see.”
Killorn is tied for seventh in the NHL for playoff goals (five), tied for seventh in scoring (12 points) and tied for ninth in assists (seven).
“He’s having himself a pretty darn good playoff when everybody’s kind of looking at the Triplets,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “…When all the attention’s put on some guys, we know we’ve got other guys in the bank. Everybody’s contributing.”
Killorn leads all Lightning forwards for average time on ice during the Eastern Conference Final at nearly 20 minutes (19:59) a game. His ability as a 200-foot power forward to go get pucks for linemates Stamkos and Valtteri Filppula has made that line more dangerous as the playoffs have advanced.
“All season, different guys are stepping up at different times,” Bishop said of Killorn. “He’s a great player and playing with some good players as well. Whenever you get those two combinations, good things are going to happen, and obviously he’s got a lot of skill, great shot and you can see that.”
Lightning center Brian Boyle has had a pretty full schedule the last two days.
Boyle returned to the ice for Game 2 on Monday, his first action of the Eastern Conference Final after sitting Game 1 with an undisclosed injury, the first game he’s missed since May 2, 2013, and played 10:39 against his former team.
Later that night, Boyle flew back to Tampa ahead of the team charter to be with his wife Lauren as the couple prepared for the birth of their first child.
Declan Gabriel Boyle, 9 pounds and 5 ounces, was born Tuesday morning around 11 a.m., both baby boy and mother doing great according to Boyle.
“It’s a very different feeling, very exciting,” Boyle said after skating with his teammates a day later at Wednesday’s morning skate.
Boyle said the newborn’s name is a homage to his Irish Catholic roots.
“(Declan’s) an Irish name, and there’s some meaning too it,” Boyle said. “His middle name’s Gabriel. That’s a pretty strong Catholic name. He’s beautiful and we’re very, very lucky.”
Boyle, who is scheduled to play tonight in Game 3, said the well wishes from teammates, friends and fans have been unbelievable.
“Everybody’s pretty happy,” Boyle said. “The outpouring’s been great, a lot of support, a lot of people praying for us. We’re very blessed.”