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Rangers vs Lightning Game 2: Rangers Take 2-0 Series Lead Heading Back to Tampa

Tampa Bay Lightning v New York Rangers - Game Two Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Two down, two to go.

The New York Rangers picked up their second straight win on home ice, and took a commanding 2-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference Final. We heard all about Tampa Bay’s 18-0 winning streak after suffering a loss in the playoffs. The Rangers? They didn’t care one bit about the streak and elevated their game even higher in Game 2. Igor Shesterkin was Igor Shesterkin once again for the Rangers, and turned aside 29 of the 31 shots he faced.

1st Period

Things got a little chippy early on in the first period as Ryan Reaves and Pat Maroon exchanged pleasantries as both were lining up for a faceoff. The confusing part, though, is why referee Chris Rooney decided to only hand out a roughing minor to Reaves at the end of the scuffle. Both players exchanged equal punches, but somehow the Rangers ended up shorthanded when it was all said and done.

As is always the case, the questionable call ended up in the back of the Rangers’ net almost immediately after the ensuing faceoff. Steven Stamkos was able to win the draw cleanly, and allowed the Lightning to get into their power play setup. Once pass across the ice was it all took, and Nikita Kucherov opened up the scoring for the Lightning. It looked as if Igor Shesterkin picked up the shot late with Corey Perry lurking around the crease, and Tampa Bay jumped out to the early 1-0 lead.

Despite giving up the early lead on a horrendous call, the Rangers didn’t waste much time turning the game right back in their favor. A little over three minutes after Kucherov’s tally, K’Andre Miller pulled the Rangers even with his second goal of the playoffs. Frank Vatrano setup the entire play with a great back pass to Miller as he stepped over the opposing blue line.

Miller had plenty of time to wind up a shot, but wound up putting the puck right into the shins of Brandon Hagel which sent the forward to the ice in immediate pain. K’Andre Miller didn’t quit on the play, followed up on the loose puck and beat Andrei Vasilevskiy clean on the glove hand. The goal was huge for New York’s confidence as they were able to shake off the early goal against and jump right back into this game.

With under three minutes remaining in the opening frame, the Kid Line responded again to give New York their first lead of the evening. The Rangers did an excellent job of keeping possession in the offensive zone, and that eventually led to tired legs for the Lightning. Adam Fox capped off the pressure in the offensive zone with an unreal head fake as collected a pass in the left faceoff circle.

Fox didn’t waste much time putting the puck to the front of the net, where Kaapo Kakko had his stick waiting for the deflection. The picture perfect play ended up behind Vasilevskiy for the Rangers’ second goal of the night, and they took a 2-1 lead into the intermission.

2nd Period

No scoring.

3rd Period

The Rangers continued their strong play throughout the second period, but Andrei Vasilevskiy turned his game up a notch and started giving New York trouble. With the Rangers failing to capitalize on all of their glorious scoring chances, letting Tampa Bay hang around in a one-goal game felt like a disaster scenario. Thankfully, Mika Zibanejad put that theory to rest just 1:21 into the third period as he wired home his ninth of the post season.

An absolutely awful turnover by Nikita Kucherov led the Rangers on a transition 2-on-1 rush the other way into the offensive zone. Adam Fox deferred over to Mika Zibanejad just as he crossed the blue line, and the 29-year old Swede handled the rest. Yet another blocker side snipe ended up behind Vasilevskiy and the Rangers were looking well in control of this game.

A failed power play late in the third period by the Rangers appeared to give the Lightning some life and they were able to make this a one-goal game. A great tic-tac-toe passing play between Nikita Kucherov, Corey Perry and Nick Paul picked apart the Rangers as they entered the offensive zone. Nick Paul was able to cap off the play with a great power move to the front of the net, and slipped the puck around Igor Shesterkin as he sprawled out in the splits.

That setup an extremely stressful final three minutes for New York, but once again, they bent but didn’t break in the closing minutes of this game. One final clear by Chris Kreider iced the game for New York, and they took a commanding 2-0 series lead heading back to Tampa Bay. The Lightning clearly elevated their level of play compared to Game 1, but so did the Rangers. If not for an extremely strong second period by Andrei Vasilevskiy, the Rangers could have blown this game wide open with their amount of chances.

The series now shifts back to Tampa Bay on Sunday afternoon for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Why. Not. Us?