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Rangers couldn't find way through Lightning defense

by Evan Sporer / NHL.com

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers scored 10 goals in their prior two games against the Tampa Bay Lightning, four on the power play. The Rangers created quality scoring chances and had the Lightning and goalie Ben Bishop on their heels.

But Sunday, in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final, Tampa Bay took away the chances and the shots, and defeated the Rangers 2-0 to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 series.

Tampa Bay eliminated time and space, collapsed in the shooting lanes, and kept New York and the puck to the outside.

"They had a lot of layers," Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi said. "They had the first guy come at you and get right in the lane, and you get it by that guy, and there's another guy in front of the net that's trying to block it. They did a really good job of that tonight. We just have to find a way to get it past that first guy and hopefully get that puck into the net."

The Rangers went through large stretches of the game controlling possession and eating up time in the Lightning zone. But many of those shifts ended in shot attempts, not shots on goal.

"Well they did obviously find those shooting lanes," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. " … They did a great job of defending, blocking lanes and blocking shots, and it made it really challenging for us."

During the shifts when the Rangers had the Lightning pinned deep, Tampa Bay was playing organized defensively. On three consecutive shifts in the first period, the Rangers cycled the puck around the zone. The third shift ended with a Tampa Bay icing, and Lightning coach Jon Cooper called timeout. The shifts, which lasted 3:34, produced one shot on goal.

The Rangers power play, which scored twice each in Games 2, 3 and 4, did not produce in Game 5. On four opportunities, the Rangers had four shots on goal; the Lightning had two shorthanded shots on goal.

"We didn't do a good job of managing it in the sense of making plays and chipping pucks in," Rangers center Derek Stepan said. " … We worked extremely hard to get the puck back on the power play and then just [made] poor decisions with it."

The Rangers struggled to get organized, with failed zone entries, and then hurried attempts to create offense after time had been killed establishing possession below the blue line.

"Our power play had been getting us some momentum, had been getting us some really good looks," Vigneault said. "Our execution was a bit slow tonight on the power play. Because it was slow, it made it easier for them to defend. We didn't get very many looks on it, and obviously that was a big part of tonight's game."

New York had 58 shot attempts; Tampa Bay had 42. It wasn't a lack of puck possession that hurt the Rangers, who were outscored 2-0 in the second period despite attempting more shots than the Lightning and taking one fewer shot on goal.

"We worked hard tonight, we just didn't work very smart," Stepan said. "When we got the puck back, we weren't able to execute on the plays we needed to make.

"Give them credit too, they did a good job of getting in shot lanes, and when we did finally get some looks, they were able to block some shots. We just weren't able to generate enough."

The Rangers will be playing to keep their season alive in Game 6 at Amalie Arena on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; NCBSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"We know what we have to do," Girardi said. "When we get it to the point, we have to make a little move to maybe get that guy to move out of the lane, and if there's a guy open at the side of the net, hit him, or go D-to-D to your partner.

"It's things we've done all year, we just have to find a way."

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