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Lightning's home struggles continue in Game 6 loss

by Corey Long /

TAMPA -- The message was clear from the Tampa Bay Lightning locker room after a 7-3 loss to the New York Rangers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final on Tuesday: Move on and prepare for Game 7.

The Rangers tied the best-of-7 series at 3-3 and will host Game 7 at Madison Square Garden on Friday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

Tampa Bay had a golden opportunity to advance to the Stanley Cup Final on home ice. The Lightning were 32-8-1 at Amalie Arena during the regular season, the best home record in the NHL. But in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they are 5-5 at home and have given up 34 goals.

The Lightning are 6-3 on the road in the postseason and have allowed 16 goals.

"It would be nice if you could put your finger on [the home losses]," Lightning goalie Ben Bishop said. "But I don't know what the reason is. It's a really good building for us to play in and it's nice to win in front of these fans."

Tampa Bay has blown several opportunities at Amalie Arena during the playoffs. With their first-round series against the Detroit Red Wings tied 2-2, the Lightning came out flat in a 4-0 loss in Game 5. They had a chance to sweep the Montreal Canadiens in the second round but lost 6-2 in Game 4.

In this series against the Rangers, the Lightning had a chance to take a commanding 3-1 series lead but lost 5-1 in Game 4.

"It's tough, we had a chance to finish it out," Lightning forward Ryan Callahan said. "But it's one of those ones you move past it, and we've got another opportunity on the road."

The road might be the best place for the Lightning to end this series, even if New York is 7-0 all-time in Game 7s at home; the Rangers have scored 18 goals at Amalie Arena and four at Madison Square Garden.

"You're not going to go through the playoffs without adversity, without having your back against the wall," Callahan said. "We've got a Game 7 in the conference finals and we've got to get excited about that."

For the first two periods in Game 6, the Lightning played like a team that wanted to move on to the Stanley Cup Final. They outshot the Rangers 29-18 and had more scoring chances.

But the third period was disastrous.

The Rangers came out with an aggressive attack early in the period, and it appeared to catch the Lightning off guard. The game plan worked; New York scored three times in the first 7:14 to take a 5-1 lead and sent Bishop to the bench.

"For five straight periods we played really, really well," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "We played defense, we created chances, we didn't turn pucks over. ... And in a matter of seven or eight minutes in the third period, we gave up more scoring chances and turned over more pucks than we did in all of Game 5."

Cooper said it was another lesson learned for the Lightning, who are figuring out how much of an emotional roller coaster the playoffs can be.

Now Tampa Bay has to go on the road to try and continue the ride.

"We did everything we could, especially in the first two periods, but [Henrik] Lundqvist made some incredible saves," Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said. "The playoffs are going to be up and down, and now it's Game 7, Madison Square Garden. It's going to be a lot of fun."

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