The New York Rangers live to fight another day.
After clinging to a 2-1 lead for the first 40 minutes of this game, the Rangers came out flying in the third period and put five goals on the board. I'm not sure anyone was expecting that kind of offensive outburst, especially after the way the first 40 minutes went, but here we are. Henrik Lundqvist was an absolute monster in this game, and when the Rangers were feeling the pressure early on, here was there to make the big save.
How about that line of Derick Brassard, J.T. Miller, and Rick Nash? Talk about stepping up. Nash and Miller each had four points apiece and Brassard, the man of the night, had a whopping five points. That's the type of effort you expect from your top line, and it's pretty amazing what that line has done since Miller was added the equation, isn't it? Martin St. Louis simply wasn't getting the job done, and Miller's addition has added a whole new dynamic that was sorely missing.
Aside from being doubled up on shots in the first period, the Rangers found a way and were able to muster up two goals in the opening 15 minutes. Derick Brassard got the things started just 3:36 into regulation after collecting a pass from Miller, and making a quick to the backhand at the top of the crease. Ben Bishop wound up committing on the initial move, which opened his five hole, and Brassard slammed it home for the early 1-0 lead.
About 12 minutes later, Keith Yandle's point shot somehow made it through traffic in front of Bishop, and slipped just under the crossbar. Initially, Miller was credited with the goal but it was quickly changed after the replays showed the puck bouncing off of J.T. Brown. As a result, Keith Yandle picked up his second goal of the playoffs and gave the Rangers a huge 2-0 lead late in the first period.
However, Ryan Callahan wasn't having any of it and made this a game again at the 17:20 mark of the first period. Anton Stralman (sigh) was able to catch both Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh napping at the blue line, and hit Callahan with a crisp stretch pass up the middle of the ice. Callahan was able to break in all alone, and finished it off with a quick move to the backhand. Lundqvist wasn't to react in time, and suddenly the Rangers were feeling the pressure.
That pressure continued to carry over to the second period, where the Rangers were an absolute mess in their own zone. The Rangers weren't able to get any sort of transition game going, and the lack of a clean outlet pass was stifling their offense the entire middle frame. Luckily, thanks to Henrik Lundqvist, this game somehow remained 2-1 heading into the third period.
Then, the unexpected happened. The Rangers were able to rattle off three goals within the first seven minutes of the third period, and jumped out to a commanding 5-1 lead. J.T. Miller got it all started with a tap in to the side of the net, following a beautiful effort from Nash and Brassard. Nash was able to generate a hard, low shot on the 2-on-1 rush, which Bishop wasn't able to handle.
Brassard followed up the play, and after being denied in front by Bishop, he quickly fed the puck back out to Miller who was wide open. Before the Lightning were able to regroup in front, Miller ripped the puck past Bishop to make it a 3-1 game. Three minutes later, the Rangers fourth line went to work and James Sheppard caught a fortunate bounce off of his shin pad, and it was 4-1 Rangers.
As if that wasn't enough, a little over a minute later, Brassard put home his second goal of the evening on a beautiful effort from Rick Nash, and and even better pass from J.T. Miller. Nash makes this entire goal happen with his relentless forecheck on Andrej Sustr, and forced the loose puck back to Miller. Without wasting any time, Miller fired a cross-ice feed over to Brassard, and it was pretty much game over from there.
Nikita Kucherov made things interesting just 36 seconds later, as he fired a quick shot past Lundqvist on an offensive zone faceoff. With the lead back down to three goals, Rick Nash slammed home a power play goal at the 10:21 mark of the third period, and restored the Rangers four goal cushion. Once again, though, Nikita Kucherov responded with his second goal of the night off of a beautiful saucer pass from Tyler Johnson.
Derick Brassard eventually closed out the scoring with under two minutes remaining, and capped off the hat trick with an empty net goal. The final horn finally sounded, and the Rangers will head back to Madison Square Garden with one final game left to play in this series. You can bet that MSG will be absolutely rocking on Friday night as the Rangers look to scrape up one final win and a chance to play for the Stanley Cup once again.
Game 7. The Rangers wouldn't have it any other way.
5 wins to go.