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Rangers vs Lightning Game 4: Series Tied At 2-2 Heading Back to New York

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

After defending home ice in the opening two games of this series, the Rangers find themselves heading back home with the series deadlocked at 2-2. Tampa Bay returned the favor by winning both games at Amalie Arena, and suddenly the defending Stanley Cup Champions look like they are back.

1st Period

Heading into this game down their number two center in Ryan Strome, the Rangers didn’t do themselves any favors with their slow start. Just over two minutes after the opening faceoff, Tampa Bay’s fourth line made the Rangers pay as they jumped out to an early 1-0 lead.

Zach.....Bogosian created the entire play with an uncharacteristic move to his backhand, and shoveled a shot on goal. All five Rangers players were in the vicinity to collect the loose puck, but Patrick Maroon beat every single one of them to the rebound. Maroon didn’t get full power on the shot, but got enough to pop the puck up in the air and in behind Igor Shesterkin. The early goal clearly gave the Lightning some life, and they turned up the pressure pretty quickly following the goal.

2nd Period

Even though the score remained 1-0 throughout the first half of this game, the Rangers weren’t generating nearly enough chances in the offensive zone. They were outshooting the Lightning at this point in the game, but nothing came close to even challenging Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Rangers kept hanging around despite Tampa Bay controlling the play, and it felt like it was only a matter of time before the bridge finally broke down.

Ondrej Palat has really picked up his play since Game 3, and was on full display again this evening with another strong game. Palat was able to set up Tampa Bay’s second goal of the night just past the halfway mark of the middle frame. A crisp outlet pass through the middle of the ice gave Nikita Kucherov some well earned space, and he turned that into a breakaway attempt. Igor Shesterkin came well out of his crease to challenge the shooter, but Kucherov got the better of him as he slipped it through his legs to make it a 2-0 game.

3rd Period

After giving up the second goal, and still having a hard time generating chances in the offensive zone, this game felt like torture as the time crawled on. Things went from bad to worse for the Rangers in the third period as they were without Filip Chytil, who exited the game late in the second period with a reported upper-body injury. With the Rangers already being down Ryan Strome, another crucial piece exited the game as New York attempted to claw back into this game.

Unfortunately, it would be much more of the same for the Rangers and the Lightning were able to jump out to a commanding 3-0 lead. Another great individual effort by Ondrej Palat created the chance coming out of the corner where he nearly lost his balance. Palat was able to stay on his feet, spun off a check by Mika Zibanejad and generated a shot on goal from inside the right faceoff circle.

The shot through traffic gave Igor Shesterkin some trouble, and he kicked the rebound right out to Steven Stamkos positioned off to the right of the crease. Tampa Bay’s captain doesn’t miss too many chances with the net that wide open, and he all but put this game away for the Lightning within the five minute mark of the third period.

The Rangers were handed a lifeline late in the third period with under four minutes remaining as they went to work on their second power play of the night. After generating numerous shot attempts and crashing the net, Artemiy Panarin finally pulled the Rangers within a pair on the man-advantage. The Rangers continued to apply the pressure with Igor Shesterkin on the bench, but just couldn’t find a way to solve Andrei Vasilevskiy. After withstanding the late pressure, Ondrej Palat picked up his third point of the night as he walked out of the zone and put the game on ice with an empty netter.

The Rangers will certainly need to be much better than they were tonight if they plan on regaining the momentum in this series. Despite coughing up a 2-0 lead in Game 3, this was easily the worst game the Rangers have thus far in the Eastern Conference Final. Their injury luck finally caught up to them after being mostly healthy throughout the first two rounds. The status of Ryan Strome and Filip Chytil still remain unknown, but the Rangers are going to need both of them back if they plan on regaining control of the series.

They’ll have another chance to defend home ice as Game 5 shifts back to Madison Square Garden on Thursday night.

Why. Not. Us?