New York Rangers inflict first straight losses on Tampa Bay Lightning since 2019

New York Rangers inflict first straight losses on Tampa Bay Lightning since 2019

NEW YORK — The Rangers won Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals and ended an NHL-record streak for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The two-time Stanley Cup champions had won 18 straight games following a Stanley Cup Playoff loss, last losing back-to-back games in April 2019. Those losses came in a sweep by the Columbus Blue Jackets, which was the last time the Lightning were down. 2-0 in a series before the Rangers’ 3-2 win Friday night at Madison Square Garden gave them straight wins to start the Conference Finals.

“It’s been a hell of a run in terms of responding to the losses of the last two years,” captain Steven Stamkos said. “It shows the character of this group. It’s the hardest trophy to win. You’re going to have some tough times. This is definitely one of them.”

Coach Jon Cooper didn’t see the ending of the streak as a debilitating move for his team.

“At some point you’re going to lose two in a row in the playoffs,” he said. “The fact that we haven’t done it in how many years is remarkable. You could take a second here and say, ‘Hell of a job, guys.’ But for the most part, the streaks end, and it ended for us tonight. Did that knock us out of the playoffs? It didn’t. Do we have a hill to climb? “There’s no doubt. I don’t think I’m Captain Obvious in saying that. But I think we have better in us.”

The Lightning players after Game 2 said the loss was due to poor execution on their part. Too much east-west play and not enough north-south attack. Too many turnovers that led to Rangers’ chances. Allowing New York to control the puck for about half the game, before the Lightning found their play and a sense of urgency in the third period.

Cooper said his team’s lack of urgency in the first two periods was not because deep down the players knew they could fall back on the historic streak success.

“I’ll be honest: this is my first time talking about the streak,” he said. “Nobody talked about it. We know it happened, but it was never talked about in our group. There’s no way for our team to rely on ‘we don’t lose two of after.’

“We just couldn’t manage the puck. It was glaring what was going on, from the first to the middle of the second. It’s not [the] Game plan. That’s not what [the Rangers] done. You have to manage the puck and we just didn’t. »

The Lightning went first thanks to star winger Nikita Kucherov’s power-play goal. Rangers’ Ryan Reaves and Lightning’s Pat Maroon suffered a physical face-off, but only Reaves received a penalty. Kucherov’s shot through goaltender Igor Shesterkin was his fifth of the playoffs at 2:41.

New York responded 3:18 later as defenseman K’Andre Miller grabbed his own rebound and tossed the puck past Andrei Vasilevskiy for the equalizer. The Rangers took a 2-1 lead late in the first thanks to the Kid Line, their trio of young stars who propelled them into the playoffs, working in concert with star defenseman Adam Fox.

Forward Alexis Lafrenière passed the puck to Fox, who was stationed a few feet from Lightning territory. He faked a shot to send defender Jan Rutta past him before sending a perfect pass to forward Kaapo Kakko for a defection goal, his second of the playoffs.

Rangers took that lead in the second half and had the best of the game, but were unable to add a third goal. Center Mika Zibanejad remedied that just 1:21 into the third period, taking a shot on the post and behind Vasilevskiy for his ninth of the playoffs. The goal tied Zibanejad with three other players for the longest home goal streak (6) in the past 30 seasons.

Nick Paul’s goal at 17:58 of the third period with Vasilevskiy cut the lead, but Shesterkin helped slam the door with 13 saves in the third period and 29 for the game.

One of the driving forces behind the Lightning streak was Vasilevskiy, who was 18-0 with a 1.49 goals-against average, .942 save percentage and five shutouts. He has now allowed three goals in his three games following playoff losses.

Teams that take a 2-0 lead in a best-of-7 series hold a series record of 340-53 (.865), including a 3-1 mark (.750) in the 2022 playoffs. Stamkos found solace in that streak loss: the Rangers’ win over the Carolina Hurricanes in the previous round.

“You just have to look at the team we play against and how they got here,” he said. “Two-zip in their last series. Down 3-1 in the first round. The recipe is there.”

Game 3 takes place Sunday afternoon in Tampa.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.