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Moore scores late, Rangers defeat Lightning in opener

by Brian Compton / NHL.com

NEW YORK -- Dominic Moore broke a tie with 2:25 remaining to give the New York Rangers a 2-1 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final on Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

Derek Stepan scored and Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves for the Rangers, who have won their past four games after trailing 3-1 to the Washington Capitals in the second round.

Moore broke a 1-1 tie at 17:35 of the third period. After New York killed its third penalty of the period, Kevin Hayes took a shot from the left wing that Moore redirected past Lightning goalie Ben Bishop for his first goal in 13 games in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"A couple of shifts earlier, I drove right in front and it just rolled off my tape," Moore said. "I tried to stay with it and hope for a good bounce."

Moore is playing in the Eastern Conference Final for the fourth time since 2010, which included a trip with the Lightning the following year. His goal Saturday was his 11th in the playoffs since his initial run with the Montreal Canadiens.

"For me, this is the fourth time in the last five years and the one year it didn't happen I didn't really play the full playoffs," Moore said, referring to his brief playoff stint with the San Jose Sharks in 2012. "I don't take lightly being in these games and I appreciate the opportunity every time to step on the ice and enjoy it. We've worked hard to earn this opportunity and we just have to continue playing well."

Ondrej Palat scored and Bishop made 28 saves for the Lightning. Bishop entered the series 8-0-0 against the Rangers with a 1.49 goals-against average and a .946 save percentage in his NHL career.

Game 2 of the best-of-7 series is Monday at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"We gave ourselves a chance," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. "That was a little bit of a fluky goal at the end, but that's what happens when you throw pucks at the net. We got a little better as the game went on. Not the start that we wanted, but hopefully we got our feet wet a little tonight and we know what to expect."

The Rangers won for the seventh time in these playoffs when scoring two goals or fewer (7-2). Each of their 13 games this postseason has been decided by one goal; dating back to last year, they've played 15 straight one-goal playoff games, an NHL record.

"I think it helps us when we're in that position almost every night that you keep your focus on the right things," Lundqvist said. "That's what it comes down to. I think we all understand that every play matters throughout the game. We're that close every game. All the board battles and making all the right plays in our own end, offensively, it all matters. To keep your focus throughout the game is key.

"I think we also have confidence in our group when it comes down to it because we believe in each other and the system we have. It's always a good feeling to go into the third and you just try to push yourself to get that win."

Stepan gave New York a 1-0 lead with 12.7 seconds left in the second period. Stepan, who sent the Rangers into the third round with an overtime goal in Game 7 against the Capitals on Wednesday, collected the puck after Chris Kreider's shot went off Lightning defenseman Andrej Sustr and quickly put it past Bishop, who lost his stick moments earlier. It was Stepan's fourth goal of the playoffs.

Palat tied it with a power-play goal 6:45 into the third period. After Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh was whistled for high sticking, Palat one-timed Tyler Johnson's cross-ice feed from the right circle past Lundqvist to make it 1-1.

Bishop made his best save of the first period with 12:08 remaining when he managed to get his left arm on a wrist shot from Stepan, who was sent in on a breakaway by Dan Girardi.

"You just try to keep your team in the game as long as possible," Bishop said. "The power play did a good job of getting one (goal) there. It's just kind of an unfortunate bounce late in the game and they take this one."

Hayes had a chance to open the scoring with about three minutes left in the first, but his shot from the slot hit the post after Bishop turned the puck over to Derick Brassard.

Girardi had a chance in the final minute of the opening period near the left goal post. With Bishop out of position, Girardi appeared to have an open net to shoot at, but Palat and Nikita Kucherov combined to swat the puck away to keep the game scoreless.

New York outshot Tampa Bay 11-7 in the first period.

"We'd like to have the first period back, no question," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "Game 1, I thought we played tight. They were on us, we were probably a little bit fortunate. We got to the room tied (0-0). After that, it was anybody's game. I thought there were big spurts in the game where we had them hemmed in. I don't think we shot the puck enough, I don't think we attempted enough shots.

"What got us through the Montreal series [last round] is not what we did tonight in some parts of the game. What got Montreal back in the series is what we did for big parts of the game tonight."

Rangers forward J.T. Miller had a great chance during an abbreviated power play six minutes into the second period. Moments after he exited the penalty box to end a 4-on-4 situation, Miller was robbed on the doorstep where Bishop managed to get his right pad on a rebound chance.

Lundqvist responded with 5:06 left in the second, making a terrific save on Palat's redirection of a shot from Nikita Kucherov.

The Rangers are 5-0 in the playoffs when leading after two periods. The biggest challenge has been finding a way to get the lead in these low-scoring, one-goal games.

"This is such a competitive League, so little separating the teams, I think at the end of the day that's what you have to expect," New York coach Alain Vigneault said. "People talk about scoring maybe being down a bit, but look at the goaltending we're seeing on the ice. I can't comment that much on the Western Conference, but in the Eastern Conference all the teams, the goaltending's just been phenomenal.

"We had some great looks, some great chances. Their goaltender made some saves, and our guy made some saves."

Lightning center Brian Boyle did not play because of an undisclosed injury. He is day-to-day.

Right wing Ryan Callahan, who had an appendectomy Monday night, played for Tampa Bay. He did not have a shot on goal in 14:46.

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