Lightning pump six more goals past Henrik Lundqvist, win in overtime
Lightning centre Alex Killorn (17) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Rangers during the second period of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, May 20, 2015. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)
Remember when teams were having such trouble scoring on Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers?
The Tampa Bay Lightning are starting to put them in by the half dozens.
Triplet Line winger Nikita Kucherov cruised innocently into the Rangers zone and beat Lundqvist with wrist shot from the high slot at 3:33 of overtime to give the Lightning a 6-5 win at Amalie Arena Wednesday night.
The Bolts, who won Game 2 by a 6-2 margin at Madison Square Garden, now lead the Eastern Conference final 2-1.
“Any shot is a good shot,” said Kucherov. “I was just trying to hit the net. It doesn’t matter how hard I’m shooting. The puck went in, so it’s a good shot.”
Lundqvist had trouble tracking Kucherov's shot.
“For some reason I couldn’t pick it up," said Lundqvist. "It comes at me and looks like its coming towards me and then I’m just late reacting. I don’t know why I didn’t pick it up. It’s a tough one. It really is. It’s really challenging for me the way they move the puck. The way they find open ice in the slot, and scoring chances right in front. I just need to dig deep here to try to be more consistent with my game plan. Try to challenge the shooter then they pass and sometimes you stay back. As a team, if we can be a little bit better, but also I have to be better. Honestly, you’re not going to win if I give up six goals.”
Seven of New York’s nine playoff wins have been by a 2-1 score. Now 12 goals on “The King” in two games?
Who would have believed it?
“I think it’s a matter of us taking care of our guy in front of him,” said Rangers defenceman Dan Girardi. “Give him a chance to see the puck. It’s tough, we don’t want to go out and play this way ... a track meet game back and forth. They’re fast and we’re fast, but I think we want to make it a little more tight checking next game.”
Ondrej Palat scored his second goal of the game with 5:55 left in the third period, giving the Lightning a 5-4 lead and what appeared to be a regulation time victory. After accepting a pass from Nikita Nesterov near the right wing face-off circle, Palat cut to the middle and waited until he had a clear lane past the crowd gathering in front of the net to slide a shot past Lundqvist.
But veteran Rangers defender Dan Boyle left his point position for the front of the net to bang in a loose puck with 1:56 to go, setting up overtime.
Lundqvist stopped J.T. Brown on a breakaway in the third minute of overtime.
Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn scored for Tampa. Jesper Fast had two goals for the Rangers, while Derick Brassard and Ryan McDonagh had the others.
“Game 2 was because of penalties, they scored (three power play goals),” said Rangers centre Derek Stepan. “You leave that game and say ‘We’ve got to be more disciplined.' Tonight, it’s just the way the game went. We had five goals, too. It’s just a lot of open space. I think both teams will go back and look at the drawing board and say we’ve got to do a better job of defending.”
With his team trailing by a goal entering the third, McDonagh tied the game at the 2:28 mark with the Rangers on a power play, taking a pass from Kevin Hayes and tucking his shot under the bar with Bishop down.
As the rest of the period played out, it appeared overtime was inevitable. But then came Palat’s heroics.
The Lightning outshot the Rangers 40-28. New York’s power play was 2-for-4, while Tampa scored on one of two man-advantage chances.
The Lightning swarmed the Rangers in the second half of the middle period, turning a 2-1 deficit into a 4-3 lead.
First Palat scored his fifth of the post-season after being sent in by Johnson. Less than three minutes later, the roles were reversed as Johnson worked free in front of the Rangers net to whip in a Palat pass for his 12th of the season. (At this point, we will remind you that the NHL record for most goals in a playoff season is 19).
Killorn completed a three-goal-in-6:46 span by crossing through the slot, holding onto the puck long enough to slide by Rangers defencemen Marc Staal and Boyle, then whipping a wrist shot over Lundqvist’s catching mitt.
But just when it looked like the Rangers were falling out of it, Fast scored his second of the night 29 seconds later, tipping in a Kevin Klein shot to pull New York back to within one.
On the heels of a 6-2 loss in Game 2, the Rangers promised to rebound well Wednesday.
“Every time we’ve had a bad game, we always bounce back,” Rangers centre Brassard said after the morning skate. “I’m not expecting anything different for tonight.”
Sure enough, Brassard opened the scoring just 62 seconds after the opening face-off -- with Tampa’s Cedric Paquette serving a penalty he took at the 26 second mark -- by blasting a shot past Bishop on the short side with Chris Kreider providing a screen.
The Lightning were caught on a horrible change almost nine minutes later, and Kreider took advantage by sending Jesper Fast on a breakaway. Fast faked a shot and pulled the puck on his backhand to make it 2-0.
That one woke Tampa up.
Stamkos, who was involved in the above-mentioned bad change, put the Lightning on the board off a broken play less than two minutes later. His nice pass sent Killorn in for a chance, but the shot attempt was disrupted by a Rangers back check and didn’t make it to the net. No, instead it squirted to Stamkos -- what is it they say about pucks following good players around the ice? -- and the Bolts captain made no mistake with an open side.
The Lightning had a chance to tie the score three minutes before the intermission, but Lundqvist stopped Killorn on a breakaway.