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Lightning hope to eliminate resilient Rangers

by Brian Compton /



Tampa Bay leads best-of-7 series 3-2

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning are fully aware of how difficult it is to eliminate the New York Rangers from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They'll be presented with that opportunity in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final at Amalie Arena on Tuesday.

The Rangers have won each of the past six games that have either been Game 6 or Game 7 of a Stanley Cup Playoff series, dating to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Philadelphia Flyers last season.

The Lightning have a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 series after a 2-0 win in Game 5 at Madison Square Garden on Sunday and can advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 11 years with a victory.

"You want to take advantage of this game, and we know it's going to be the toughest one," Lightning forward Brenden Morrow said Monday. "The elimination game is always the toughest. But you want to have success and play the type of game we did and worry about keeping the puck out of the net, and we always find a way to get some (goals)."

Despite their success in recent seasons when facing elimination, the Rangers, who rallied from a 3-1 series deficit against the Washington Capitals in the second round, know they can't afford to look ahead to a potential Game 7, which would take place at Madison Square Garden on Friday.

They will be a confident group heading into Game 6 considering they've already won a game at Amalie Arena in this series, a 5-1 victory in Game 4.

"I don't think the past up to this point really matters," Rangers center Derek Stepan said. "We know the situation we're in. We have to stay confident. We've just got to find a way to win a game in Tampa and just take it one game, Game 6, and we'll see what happens from there."

It helps that the Rangers have goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who is 6-0 with a 1.13 goals-against average and .965 save percentage in his past six Game 6 or 7 starts. Lightning center Brian Boyle played in front of Lundqvist for some of those games, so he knows what to expect Tuesday.

"It's going to be obviously a tough game," Boyle said. "Last game was a tough game. We have to understand the momentum and all of that, and it starts fresh now.

"We also need to understand when you're a desperate team, they're a dangerous team, so we need to match the desperation."

Tampa Bay has managed to adjust to any style of game throughout the series, including Sunday when they got into shooting lanes and prevented the Rangers from generating quality chances despite spending frequent time in the Lightning zone. But New York forward Carl Hagelin said that's expected when the playoffs are down to four teams.

"It's not frustrating, it's just one of those things," Hagelin said. "You're in the conference final and you know you've got to play a team that's really good. They've done a lot of good things this year, and that's why they are where they are, and that's why we are where we are. Whatever happens tomorrow, we just need to bring it."

The Rangers will have to find a way to contain Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, who has scored in four straight games and in six of the past seven. Tampa Bay center Tyler Johnson leads the playoffs with 12 goals.

"I think you have to have depth." Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "We're not here without it. It starts with [goalie Ben Bishop], our blue line, and you have to look at the scoring depth. To have more than one line getting it done and be a threat, now you put a little more pressure on them to not only play defense against us, but also try and score, so it's like a double threat and a big reason why we are up 3-2."

Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn did not play the final two periods of Game 5 because of an illness. His status for Tuesday is unknown.


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