Rangers Beat Lightning to Take Commanding Conference Finals Lead
NEW YORK (AP) — Mika Zibanejad scored in the third period, Igor Shesterkin stopped 29 shots and the New York Rangers beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 on Friday night to take a 2-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
K’Andre Miller, Kaapo Kakko and Adam Fox each scored in the first period. Chris Kreider had two assists for Rangers. New York won its eighth consecutive home game, breaking a franchise record for playoff wins.
Nikita Kucherov had a goal and an assist for Tampa Bay, Nicholas Paul also scored, and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 25 saves. After limiting Florida to three goals in a four-game sweep of the second round, the Lightning goalie has allowed nine goals against the Rangers.
The Lightning have lost consecutive playoff matches for the first time in three postseasons. The two-time defending Stanley Cup champions were 17-0 after a loss coming in. The series moves to Tampa for Game 3 on Sunday, and Game 4 on Tuesday night.
Zibanejad increased the Rangers’ lead by 3-1 in the third period. Shortly after missing wide on a 2-on-1, he got a pass from Fox, skated into the left circle and fired a shot that beat Vasilevskiy high on the stick side at 1: 21. It was Zibanejad’s ninth playoffs goal and gave him goals in six out of seven of his last seven games.
With Vasilevskiy pulled for an extra skater, Paul scored in front off a pass from Corey Perry to pull the Lightning within one with 2: 04 left.
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Vasiliveskiy was pulled again for an extra skater when Shesterkin had to make several sprawling saves with about a minute to go.
With the Rangers leading 2-1 after 20 minutes, Tyler Motte nearly added to it 3 1/2 minutes into the second period as his backhander trickled through Vasilevskiy’s pads and was on the goal line when Corey Perry dove across to keep it out.
The Rangers outshot the Lightning 14-10 in the scoreless middle period, with most of Tampa Bay’s attempts coming in the last six minutes. Shesterkin stopped Paul’s shot from the right sideline, Ross Colton attempted it close to two seconds later, and Anthony Cirelli made a deflection less than a minute later. The goalie also stopped two slap shots by Mikhail Sergachev about 20 seconds apart with about a minute to go.
The Lightning received an early power play when Ryan Reaves, Rangers’ slasher, was whistled at 2 1/2 minutes in the game. They quickly took advantage as Kucherov fired a shot from the right circle that beat Shesterkin on the glove side at 2: 41. This was Kucherov’s fifth postseason goal. In its three previous games, Tampa Bay was 0-9 on the power play.
Miller tied the game a little over a minute later on a Rangers rush. He fired a shot from the right point that was blocked by Lightning defenseman Brandon Hagel, but the puck came back to him and he fired another shot that went in off the post at 5: 59. Two minutes later,
Shesterkin made a huge skate save on Stamkos on a 2-on-1. This kept the score tied. Motte almost gave the Rangers the lead after 8 1/2 minutes, but his shot was deflected off of the goalpost.
Kakko put the Rangers ahead 2-1 as he deflected a pass from Adam Fox past Vasilevskiy from the right doorstep with 2: 28 left in the opening period.
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