The Rangers did what no other NHL team could do in the last two playoffs.
After feeding the Lightning their first back-to-back playoff losses since 2019, the Rangers look like an unstoppable and determined group after a 3-2 victory in Game 2 Friday night at Madison Square Garden gave this team faith in her more than ever.
Mika Zibanejad scored a crucial third period goal, Igor Shesterkin made 29 saves and now the Rangers will venture to Tampa, Fla. for Games 3 and 4 with a 2-0 lead in the Conference Finals. ballast.
Rangers split back-to-back defending Stanley Cup champions. They punch holes in a Stanley Cup-winning ship that’s been afloat for two seasons. There’s no rhyme or reason – the Rangers simply outperform the Lightning in every way.
“We’ve heard all year that [we weren’t] going to be successful in the playoffs,” said Adam Fox, who had two assists and apparently had the puck on a rope in the first two games of this conference final series. “And we’ve said this all year, the confidence in the room is high. Outside opinion doesn’t really affect anyone.
“We’re not thinking about teams’ streak series or how they’ve done earlier right now. We’re just trying to bring it day in and day out and the guys in it [that] bedroom believe in each other.”
It was another dominant second period for the Rangers, who held Tampa Bay to just two shots on goal for roughly the first half of the middle period to hold a 2-1 lead. But the Rangers had nothing to show other than how gassed the Lightning seemed to be.
What’s different this time around compared to the previous two series, however, is Rangers’ ability to earn a coveted insurance tally. Rangers’ first line of Chris Kreider, Zibanejad and Frank Vatrano stormed out to start the third period and generated a few odd runs. In the second, Zibanejad gave Rangers a 3-1 lead after pucking past goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who allowed nine goals on 62 shots in Games 1 and 2.
So when the Lightning fired Vasilevskiy for the extra skater and Nicholas Paul scored the run to bring his team within one with just over two minutes left in regulation time, the Rangers had the wiggle room. on the scoreboard to achieve victory.
These are the lessons the Rangers are beginning to learn.
“It was a big goal,” head coach Gerard Gallant said of Zibanejad’s tally. “We knew they were going to push really hard. We held on a little there, a little too much for me, but we fought and found a way.
The Lightning, meanwhile, have three issues, and their names are Alexis Lafrenière, Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko, who scored his second goal of the playoffs to give Rangers a 2-1 lead late in the first period. .
Every time this line has been on the ice in the first two games, Tampa Bay has suddenly been stuck in their zone and chasing the puck. The Lightning are far from the first team to have trouble with youngsters, who are best known for forming a unit that has an average age of 21.
But the Rangers mindset is still the same. Fox said they couldn’t take their foot off the gas. Shesterkin, who helped his team to two wins over Vasilevskiy, the goaltender he believes was the best in the world before this series, noted that Rangers still need two more wins.
The dynamic of this streak has completely changed, but Rangers know how quickly that can turn back – they’ve knocked down two streaks themselves.
“It’s a huge win for us, but we’re just preparing for the next one,” Gallant said. “It’s in the past behind us. We know what we’re doing, play a really good team like Tampa [Bay]. Playing like we played the last two games, that’s how we’re going to have to play to win this series.
“We want to fight hard, we want to be competitive and we’ve been tough so far. Guys have to rally around that.