The Tampa Bay Lightning won games 3 and 4 at home and lost their Eastern Conference final series 2-2 against the New York Rangers.
In doing so, he looked like a back-to-back Stanley Cup champion: controlling the game, getting into the clutch and getting superstar performances from winger Nikita Kucherov, center-back Steven Stamkos and goalkeeper Andrei Vasilyevsky.
Game 3 was shocking 3-2, with winger Andrej Palt scoring the game-winning goal 42 seconds before overtime. Game 4 was a more effective effort, with Lightning’s defense and Forchek giving the Rangers a 4-1 victory.
Rangers defender Jacob Troba said: “We are one of only three teams left here. You expect the best from them. You want the best for them. And we want to show that we can do the best we can. ” “We think we are a new and upcoming team. We have come We want to play these games. “
As the series returns to New York, here are five more takeaways from the Eastern Conference finals:
Lightning coach John Cooper felt Vasilowski was affected by the team’s nine-day suspension during their Game 1 sweep against the Florida Panthers and Rangers.
The long-awaited goalkeeper duel between former Russian national teammates began a bit unilaterally. In Games 1 and 2, in the 2021 Lightning Playoff MVP, Vasilevskiy posted a .826 saving percentage with 4.80 goals. While expecting to win the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top scorer this season, Schusterkin saved a .964 percent 5-on-5 victory in the Rangers’ opening victory.
The script flipped over in Tampa Bay. Vasilyevsky did not allow equal-strength goals and saved a total of .953 percent in his two victories. On 5-on-5, Shesterkin had a savings percentage of .933, and Tampa Bay had a total savings percentage of 0.926.
“He’s getting his mojo back,” Cooper said. “Now he has some games under his belt and he looks great.”
However, the Rangers felt that they were not challenged enough in Games 3 and 4. There was a lot of hesitation, especially in his game.
This was not the second or third time in the first two home games. It was moving from east to west, in the middle of the ice, cooking your stick in less than half a second. I don’t care who’s in the net. Every goalkeeper in the world has to contend with an east / west puck, face traffic and then when they are released on the net they can’t make up for it. That’s the decent thing to do, and it should end there. “
“For one man, I think we can say that tonight we all got the pass, got it, put our heads up and tried to pick a place instead of rushing out. Even if he saves, it is difficult to rebound in such a pass. We had success in the first few matches, “he said.
Straight lines emerge
What prompted Cooper to slide Anthony Cerelli from his top row for game 3 between winger Brandon Hegel and Alex Kilorn?
“Stop them,” he said.
The “they” above were the trio of Mika Zibnezad, Cradder and Frank Vatrano, who scored four equal-power goals in the Rangers’ two wins at Madison Square Garden. The last change of electricity was in the house. He deployed a new checking line against Jibnejad’s group. In Game 3, the Cirelli line plus-19 was in shot attempts; In Game 4, shot attempts were also 15-15. But in both games, he kept the Rangers’ top scorer at 5-on-5.
“It’s a nice line. It has its own role. I thought we did a little bit more aggressively [in Game 4]”As we said before in the playoffs, we just need to take care of ourselves and not much about who we are playing,” said Zibnejad.
Kilorn credited Cirelli, one of the NHL’s best defensive centers, as a key factor in slowing down Zibnejad.
“As a line, we keep it simple. We try our best to follow their defenders as they see fit. In that case, all three of us are good at saving the puck down the line. As a line, if we let them play to defend a good third of the game, they will succeed in what we are trying to do, “said Kilorn.
The Rangers must find a way to take their top line away from this weird trio in Game 5.
More Rangers power-play dominance
The power play of Rangers is in full swing. Artemis Panarin’s power-play goal in Game 4 was his 17th post-season on 53 occasions – his 32.1% conversion rate from 18 games is the best in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Rangers have now scored power-play goals in eight of their last nine games later in the season.
It all started with Adam Fox on the Blue Line, joining the Black Capricorn of Colorado Avalanche – which coincidentally is not the second-best power-play team in the Stanley Cup playoffs – as the best young quarterback in the NHL.
Cooper said, “He is fickle and very cunning. You have to defend it differently than other people. “” He doesn’t have the hardest shot in the world, but he knows how to get it and it can be even more dangerous. He knows where to put them. He knows which stick to shoot for. Yes – no need to try to score but one knows he is going to hold a puck to score. He lives inside. He guesses where [defenseman’s] Out and where theirs is clear. And he always thinks he’s in the right place. It’s a prototype quarterback there. “
Instead of trying to shut down Fox, Lightning focuses on interrupting two other players in the Rangers power play: Panarin, who skillfully delivers the puck, and Zibnezad, who spots “Ovila” on the power play. I like taking one-timers. ,
“We can lower Panarin’s arm a little bit and get one or two less passes to Jibnejad,” Cooper said.
The Lightning coach believes he is holding himself against this powerful element.
“It’s a tough power play. But in the end, no one is good against us all year long. “” That was 25% [in the regular season], Which is a very good power play. But we hope to keep them short of what they were doing during the season. Right now, we’re the same. “
In fact, it was 25.2%. But who is counting?
The Rangers got some big injury breaks in the first two rounds – just ask any Pittsburgh Penguin or Carolina Hurricanes fan, and they’ll strongly admit it. But injuries have kept the Rangers out of the pre-conference finals, and defender Ryan Lindgren is not the only one playing miraculously.
Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said Center Ryan Strom, who suffered a lower body injury in Game 3, is expected to be available for Game 4. He wasn’t, and Gallant is now calling him “day by day.” Center Philip Chital, the most important player in the Rangers’ dynamic “kid line”, dropped Game 4 in the second period due to a head injury. “Okay, but we’ll have to wait and see,” said Gallant. Center Barclay Gudro, who blocked a shot with his foot in Game 3, managed to play in Game 4.
Looks like at least one Ranger is on the way back: Forward Sammy Blas, who has been out with a torn ACL since November 14, 2021. He skated in a regular jersey while practicing before Game 4. Gallant still calls him a longshot to play in the conference finals.
“Every team is dealing with injuries,” said Troba. We love our team room. I think we can deal with the injuries and recover from them. ” “Do we miss them? Yes. We hope they come back. Yes. But we should be able to play without them.”
Meanwhile, Lightning is still awaiting the return of star center Braden Point after dropping Game 7 of the first round against the Maple Leafs with a lower body injury. He has been skating regularly and is expected to return to the finals.
Cooper said, “If it goes to seven, optimism remains. If it goes to five, it gets a little difficult.”
Well, it’s going to be at least six.
After all, there is no exclusion or fear in NY
Game 5 returns to Madison Square Garden on Thursday, with the series tied 2-2.
“We have to be positive,” Panarin said. We’ve been through this before. We are fine but we do a good job in the garden. Our fans? It will be a pleasure to meet them again. “
The Rangers winger said the defeat at Tampa would make his team “more hungry and angry” back home. “Sometimes it’s good when you lose. I think you’ll react the same way. I don’t think you’ve lost your confidence. The next game will just have more appetite,” Panarin said.
They should be reassured: The Rangers are on the verge of an eight-game win over New York, their only defeat since the home season in the opening round against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 1’s triple overtime. They are a separate team at home and abroad in their Stanley Cup playoff runs. In Madison Square Garden, he averages 4.22 goals per game and 2.22 goals per game; On the road, the Rangers averaged 2.44 goals per game and dropped 3.67 goals per game.
Gallant said, “I expect this to be the Homer series. It looks like so far. We’re very good at our building, they’re very good at their building.”
Like his players, Galant believes the Rangers can be assured to go home. Not just overconfidence.
“It’s good to be quiet, but it’s good to go out and play hard,” he said. “They are two out of three. We have domestic ice. But we want to play better.”