TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning eliminated the New York Rangers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, 2-1, on Saturday night to advance to their third straight Cup Final. Stanley.
Steven Stamkos scored both goals to propel the Lightning past the Rangers, who saw their surprising and dramatic playoff run end in the Conference Finals.
The Lightning are trying to become the first team to win three league titles since the New York Islanders in 1983. The Stanley Cup final between the Lightning and the Colorado Avalanche begins Wednesday in Denver. The Avalanche are aiming for their first Stanley Cup since 2001.
The Eastern Conference Finals was billed as a battle between Lightning guard Andrei Vasilevskiy and Rangers guard Igor Shesterkin, and Game 6 was a fitting climax. Shesterkin made 28 saves, including several spectacular ones, to keep Rangers in the game.
Vasilevskiy (20 saves), meanwhile, continued his mastery of potentially series-deciding games. He now has 13 wins in 24 potential career playoffs and has allowed just one goal or less in 11 of those games.
The first period was scoreless thanks to Shesterkin. He made point-blank saves on Pat Maroon and Anthony Cirelli and a fantastic skate save on a Pierre-Edouard Bellemare deflection. He worked more magic in the second half with a terrific save from a Nikita Kucherov chance.
Shesterkin made 16 saves before Lightning captain Steven Stamkos fired a long-range shot from the right wing boards past the goalie stick. It was the Lightning captain’s 40th career goal in the playoffs and eighth in the playoffs.
The Lightning finished the second period with a 1-0 lead with a 23-13 advantage on shots.
The Rangers finally got a power play opportunity at 2:26 of the third period. They entered the game with the best conversion rate in the playoffs (31.5%) but only had 3:15 of power-play time in the previous two games. The Lightning killed that men’s advantage — but not New York’s second.
With Stamkos in the penalty box for hooking, Frank Vatrano fired a shot past Vasilevskiy for his fifth of the playoffs at 13:07 of the third period.
But Stamkos would respond with his ninth of the playoffs just 21 seconds later.
Kucherov found Stamkos heading into the Rangers net with a pass. He tossed the puck into Shesterkin’s glove, but the puck flew through the air and bounced off Stamkos’ leg into the net for the 2-1 lead. The goal was confirmed during a video review by the NHL Situation Room.
Rangers failed to equalise. Their attack was reduced to a single goal for the third game in a row.
Rangers coach Gerard Gallant hinted before Game 6 that he might make roster changes and there were plenty of them. He struck out forward Kaapo Kakko, the No. 2 overall pick in 2019, for the first time in the playoffs and replaced him with forward Dryden Hunt. He also broke up the duo of Chris Kreider and Mike Zibanejad, which had anchored Rangers’ most productive playoff line.
The Lightning lost defenseman Victor Hedman in the final 10:45 minutes of the second period after being hit in the head by Rangers forward Alexis Lafrenière. But Hedman came back to start the third period.