The New York Rangers kept up with the Tampa Bay Lightning in tonight's track meet for the most part, but unfortunately, the Lightning ended Game 3 early in overtime. Simply put, the Rangers tried to beat the Lightning at their own game once again, and were burned on multiple occasions.
Once again, the line of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov smoked the Rangers on four separate chances, including the game winning goal in overtime. Henrik Lundqvist certainly had a tough outing tonight, and aside from a major whiff on the overtime winner, a lot of what happened in front of him is on the defense. They were almost nonexistent in front of him once again, and when you do that against a team like the Lightning, they're going to make you pay for those mistakes.
The Rangers were able to grab a quick start in this game tonight and actually put two up on the board within the first 10 minutes of regulation. Derick Brassard started it all off with a booming slap shot on the power play, and ripped the puck past Ben Bishop on the short side. About nine minutes later, Jesper Fast cashed in on a beautiful saucer pass from Chris Kreider and faked Bishop out of his shorts on the breakaway. At that point, things were going pretty well for the Rangers, but then the Lightning finally woke up due largely in part to the Rangers defense collapsing.
About a minute after Fast's goal, Steven Stamkos brought the Lightning back within a goal, after he knocked in a loose puck off to the side of Lundqvist. From there, the flood gates opened up in the second period. Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, and Alex Killorn all scored for the Lightning within a seven minute span and suddenly the Rangers found themselves down by a pair.
Jesper Fast finally stopped the bleeding 39 seconds later by chipping a rebound past Bishop, and the Rangers pulled the back to 4-3 heading into the third period. Just 1:32 into the third period, the Rangers were given a huge opportunity as Andrej Sustr was sent off for tripping Jesper Fast. After a minute passed by, Kevin Hayes sent a beautiful cross-ice feed over to Ryan McDonagh, and he flipped it past Bishop to tie this game up at 4-4.
As if this game wasn't already crazy enough, Ondrej Palat put the Rangers back against the wall with an amazing individual effort. Palat was able to walk through three Ranger players, and slipped the puck around Lundqvist as he was transitioning into the butterfly. The Rangers needed a quick response to pull back into this game, and with under two minutes remaining, Dan Boyle arrived.
Keith Yandle's point shot wound up getting deflected in front by J.T. Miller, and the puck landed in the crease behind Bishop. Boyle was able to work his way down from the point undetected, and slammed home the rebound to send this game to overtime. With the amount of scoring that had gone on in this game, you could almost feel like there was going to be a quick resolution to this game.
Sure enough, just 3:33 into the first overtime period, Nikita Kucherov caught Lundqvist napping deep in his crease, and beat him on the far side. It was a bit disappointing to see that one beat Lundqvist, especially after he came up huge a few moments later to shutdown J.T. Brown on the breakaway. It is what is though, and despite the Rangers putting up five goals tonight, they still need to make massive adjustments.
Win Game 4 on Friday, take the split in Tampa Bay, and come back to Madison Square Garden all knotted up at 2-2. Sound good?