After the Rangers’ 2-1 victory in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final, the question of if New York could keep this up was raised. To that point the Rangers had been averaging just two goals per game and while they had been getting results with that minimal offensive output, there hasn’t been a team dating back to 1998 that’s won the Stanley Cup with an offense that anemic.
The three contests that have followed have been wild and a complete deviation from the type of games that we saw in the Rangers’ first two rounds. The sheer number of offensive weapons at the Lightning’s disposal has made them hard for the Rangers to contain even after their strong showings against Sidney Crosby’s Pittsburgh Penguins and Alex Ovechkin’s Washington Capitals. However, the Rangers were able to nearly match the Lightning blow-for-blow in Game 3 and then in Game 4 everything worked out for New York in a 5-1 victory.
The fact that the Rangers are scoring is big by itself, but it’s the players that stepped up that has to be particularly encouraging for them. Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis are star forwards, but they haven’t been major factors offensively in the playoffs. That changed in Game 4 when they combined for three goals and four points.
That has to be a relief for both of them.
“The games keep piling on, you get chances — of course you’re pressing,” said St. Louis, per the Tampa Bay Times. “The guys who tell you they don’t press, they’re lying.”
He also admitted that ended a goal drought gives him “a second wind,” per Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston.
The question now is if Nash and St. Louis can build off of Friday’s strong showing. If they can, then Tampa Bay will have a tough time winning this series. However, the Lightning remain a dangerous team and if two of the Rangers’ top forwards immediately go cold again, then that could be a serious problem for New York.
The Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov and Cedric Paquette as well as the Rangers’ Tanner Glass were all handed misconducts in the third period while 10 other minor penalties were issued over the span of just 2:25 minutes. You can see all of that below:
That’s the most late-game trouble these two squads have gotten into so far in the Eastern Conference Final and it will be interesting to see if that bleeds into Game 5 on Sunday. One thing is certain: With the series tied at 2-2, the stakes are very high going into that contest.
The New York Rangers were put in a tough position after goaltender Henrik Lundqvist surrendered six goals in back-to-back games. He responded with a great showing in Game 4 and his teammates were able to reward his efforts with plenty of support in a 5-1 victory Friday night.
Although the final score is unquestionably one-sided, the game arguably wasn’t. After a fairly even first period, the Lightning took off in terms of five-on-five shot attempts and scoring chances compared to the Rangers, as you can see in this chart courtesy of War on Ice:
A big part of the reason why the Rangers won anyways was Lundqvist. He turned aside 38 of 39 shots to keep the Rangers in this game during some of their leaner stretches. Given his recent struggles, the fact that he was able to respond tonight is huge. His ability to step up when his team needs him the most is likely part of the reason head coach Alain Vigneault didn’t even consider swapping goaltenders for Friday’s contest.
The Rangers were also able to take advantage of their power-play opportunities. Markers from Martin St. Louis and Rick Nash with the man advantage in the third period provided them with plenty of breathing room. The fact that those two found the back of the net is noteworthy in itself given that both have been snakebitten for the most part in the playoffs.
The Rangers evened the series at 2-2 and have reclaimed the home ice advantage in the process. The onus is now on Tampa Bay to win on the road, although that hasn’t been much of a problem for either team so far in this series.
.@NYRangers have scored 5 goals in back-to-back playoff games for 1st time since Apr. 16 and 18, 2008 when they posted two 5-3 wins over NJ.
While the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning fought in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final, players representing the rival organizations worked together in the Quebec Remparts’ 4-3 victory over the Kelowna Rockets in the first game of the 2015 Memorial Cup.
Rangers defensive prospect Ryan Graves found the back of the net while his team was shorthanded early in the third period to give Quebec a 3-1 lead. Anthony Duclair, who was drafted by New York but dealt to Arizona in the Keith Yandle trade, assisted on the marker. Kelowna’s Gage Quinney brought the Rockets within one, but Lightning prospect Adam Erne gave the Remparts some breathing room with an empty netter.
Erne’s marker proved to be vital as Leon Draisaitl, who was taken by the Edmonton Oilers with the third overall pick in the 2014 draft, scored for Kelowna with just 36 seconds remaining in regulation time. Draisaitl’s efforts ultimately proved to be too little, too late though.
Zachary Fucale was the winning goaltender with 25 saves. He’s a member of the Montreal Canadiens organization after being selected with the 36th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
The Memorial Cup will continue on Saturday when Rimouski takes on Oshawa.
Stamkos had a quiet start to the 2015 playoffs, but he’s heated up tremendously as we’ve gotten deeper into the postseason. With the Lightning down 1-0 in the second period, Stamkos extended his goal scoring streak to three games by launching a one-timer past Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist:
Stamkos now has six markers in his last nine games. Lightning coach Jon Cooper deserves some credit for that turnaround as his decision to move Stamkos to the wing has paid dividends.
Via Elias: @RealStamkos91 is first TBL player to score in 3 straight playoff games since Sean Bergenheim did so from May 3-14, 2011 (4-0—4).
It might not be enough to save Tampa Bay tonight though. While the Lightning largely controlled the play in the second period up until Stamkos’ goal, the Rangers bounced right back after they lost their lead. Chris Kreider scored at 15:16 of the second frame and Keith Yandle provided some insurance just 1:48 minutes later with his first marker of the 2015 playoffs: