Henrik Lundqvist

Surging Stamkos: Lightning put Rangers on the brink

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Make no mistake about it: Steven Stamkos is red-hot, and he’s taking his Tampa Bay Lightning with him. The Bolts blanked the New York Rangers 2-0 in Game 5 to grab a 3-2 series lead on Sunday.

Stamkos assisted on Valtteri Filppula’s 1-0 goal and then took advantage of some great passing from “The Triplets” to score a tap-in 2-0 tally on the power play. Those two goals came within a five-minute stretch late in the second period that really changed the complexion of a tight contest.

There were mistakes on both sides as Matt Carle and Keith Yandle coughed up some costly turnovers (among others). Ultimately, it seemed like the Lightning beat the Rangers at “their own game,” so to speak. Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman were brilliant at times in their own end, earning the praise they received in many circles.

Henrik Lundqvist was actually quite sharp, as his high-difficulty glove save on Stamkos might have ranked a little higher on highlight reels if the rest of the contest went better for the Rangers.

Instead, Ben Bishop enjoyed a nice rebound game in the form of a relatively easy shutout. It’s also probably accurate to say that Tampa Bay’s special teams scored a serious win over New York’s power play and penalty kill units.

Fans at Madison Square Garden even lightly booed the Blueshirts heading into the second intermission:

The big story is probably the continued rise of Stamkos. He tied a Lightning playoff record by scoring a goal in his fourth consecutive game and now has seven points in that four-game span. His confidence has been as obvious as his point-scoring, too, really.

Bishop managed to steal some spotlight in the third period, although the Lightning defense showed they can play that lock-it-down style of defense when they need to. (A wide-open style might be their preference, but you need to show that you can switch gears, too.)

Rangers fans have a right to feel down. New York carried the play for significant stretches, yet they find themselves on the brink of elimination once again.

It’s no secret that Alain Vigneault’s bunch tends to ratchet up its efforts a few notches with everything on the line, either. They fought back from 3-1 series deficits both in this postseason and their lengthy 2014 run.

They’ll need to dig deep yet again, but at least they know – from experience – that they can do it.

Meanwhile, you can’t begrudge Lightning fans if they’re excited about being one win away from the big time:

Video: Lundqvist snares Stamkos’ scary shot

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In hockey, you don’t always get to see many star vs. star moments, but that’s often what makes them so special.

As their conference final series has gone along, we’ve seen a number of moments where Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos challenged New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist’s glove has come through a few times, but his stop in the second period of Game 5 was a true masterpiece:

How many goalies could stare down Stamkos in such a one-on-one situation and come out on top? Goodness.

WATCH LIVE: Lightning at Rangers, Game 5 of Eastern Conference Final

Heading into Game 4, people were wondering if New York Rangers star Henrik Lundqvist would burst out of his slump. Now the focus shifts to the other net, as Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop hopes for a better Game 5.

The series shifts back to Madison Square Garden after two action-packed games in Tampa, and the winner will take a crucial 3-2 series lead. You can watch the action on NBCSN and stream it via NBC Sports Live Extra:

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Comeback fit for a King: Lundqvist, Rangers even series in Game 4

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source: Getty Images
Getty Images

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:

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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.

Nash also scored in the first period, making this the first multi-goal postseason game of his career.

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.

Video: Stamkos nets big one-timer, Rangers answer with two goals in under two minutes

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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.

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: