The New York Rangers found the back of the net twice in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final tonight. That level of offensive production has been the norm for the Rangers in the 2015 playoffs and its gotten them this far, but it wasn’t nearly enough tonight.
After doing a good job of shutting down the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins in their previous series, the Rangers couldn’t contain Tampa Bay’s forwards tonight as it suffered a 6-2 loss to the Lightning. This is the first time the Rangers have lost by more than a goal in the 2015 postseason.
Part of the issue is that Tampa Bay has more offensive depth than the Rangers’ previous opponents, Pittsburgh or Washington, even if all three teams have star power. Containing Steven Stamkos isn’t easy nor is it enough as Tyler Johnson has proven that he’s more than capable of leading the charge. He already had eight goals in 14 games going into tonight’s contest and Johnson added to that by earning the first hat trick in Lightning playoff history.
With Tampa Bay up 3-2 early in the third period, Alex Killorn provided the squad with some insurance after receiving a beautiful pass from Victor Hedman:
Stamkos accounted for Tampa Bay’s fifth goal roughly three minutes later. He now has 12 points in 15 games, which would make him the scoring leader in New York, but its only good to put him in a tie for third place with the Lightning. The player he’s tied with is Killorn, who added his second goal of the game with just over two minutes remaining.
This is the most goals Henrik Lundqvist has surrendered in the 2015 playoffs to date. At the other end of the ice, Ben Bishop wasn’t perfect, but he did make plenty of key saves en route to turning aside 35 of 37 shots.
Tampa Bay has now evened the series at 1-1 and put the Rangers in a position where they have to win at least one game in Amalie Arena. New York will get its first opportunity to do that in Game 3 on Wednesday.
Tyler Johnson is having an amazing playoff run and he’s been the story in Game 2 against the New York Rangers. Johnson opened the contest’s scoring with a shorthanded breakaway and followed it up with a power-play marker less than six minutes later.
Tampa Bay had a 2-1 lead going into the second period thanks to his efforts and he provided them with some extra insurance while completing the hat trick midway through the frame:
This is the first time a Lightning player has earned a hat trick in a playoff game. Johnson now has 11 markers in 15 contests, which is four more than the next best player on the playoffs goal scoring leaderboard.
He’s also scored in all situations tonight as his latest was tallied while the teams were at even strength.
His playoff run is remarkable under any circumstances, but it’s particularly special when you remember that Johnson was never drafted. Like former Lightning captain and current Rangers player Martin St. Louis, Johnson is a small forward that’s had to prove himself every step of the way.
Tyler Johnson had a strong sophomore campaign and he’s gotten even better since the playoffs began. After giving the Lightning a 1-0 lead on a shorthanded breakaway early in the first period, Johnson found the back of the net again less than six minutes later:
That was his 10th goal in just 15 playoff games. To put that in perspective, no other NHL player has more than seven goals so far in the postseason. He also accounts for roughly 27% of Tampa Bay’s playoff goals.
Johnson has been part of the very effective Triplets line with Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat. The trio has been the Lightning’s top three goal scorers so far, with Steven Stamkos tied for fourth with three markers. That being said, the Triplets line wasn’t the difference early in Game 2 as special teams was instead the story.
That might be to the Lightning’s benefit as their five-on-five play was an area of concern in Game 1.
The Lightning finished the opening frame up 2-1. The Rangers have averaged just two goals per game in the playoffs and while that’s served them well enough so far, they’ll obviously need to do better tonight to extend their series lead to 2-0.
The New York Rangers had an ideal opportunity to take an early lead against Tampa Bay as Lightning forward Brian Boyle got two minutes for holding and then teammate Jason Garrison was sent to the box for a delay of game less than a minute later.
Not only did the Rangers fail to capitalize on that extended 5-on-3, but Tyler Johnson ended up scoring a shorthanded breakaway goal after Rangers forward Martin St. Louis gave up the puck.
The goal was initially waived off because the net was knocked off its moorings, but a review determined that it was a good goal. You can see that below:
The Rangers were able to get some measure of redemption though as Tampa Bay’s Brenden Morrow was called off for high sticking at 8:15 of the first frame and Chris Kreider was able to convert on the power play:
Brian Boyle was something of a surprise scratch in Game 1 due to an undisclosed injury. The Lightning were secretive about his status in the lead up to Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final tonight, but as it turns out he’s good to go.
Boyle was put back into the lineup and is projected to play alongside Brenden Morrow and J.T. Brown on the fourth line. Vladislav Namestnikov, who skated with Morrow and Brown in Game 1, will be a healthy scratch after dressing in 11 of the Lightning’s first 12 playoff contests. Namestnikov was limited to just 6:52 minutes of ice time on Saturday.
By contrast, Boyle has averaged 15:36 minutes per contest in the postseason, including 2:49 in shorthanded situations. The Lightning suffered a 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers in Game 1 without him.
“(Boyle’s) a big part of our team,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said after that contest. “He kills penalties for us. He’s a big body. He can wear on teams. Of course we miss him.”
On second thought, Game 1 made Lightning’s Cooper ‘want to vomit’