The Tampa Bay Lightning survived early penalty trouble against the New York Rangers in Game 2, but the story was different in Game 3.
Cedric Paquette took a foolish penalty in the opening moments. Chris Kreider blocked the vision of towering Bolts netminder Ben Bishop and Derick Brassard made no mistake about this 1-0 goal:
There were a lot of fireworks in Game 2, yet Game 1 finished 2-1. If this contest is more like most of the Rangers’ games in this postseason, then that 1-0 goal could be big.
Update: Jesper Fast scored one of the prettiest goals you’ll see, with a very nice pass from Kreider:
That briefly gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead, but Steven Stamkos made an impact with a big hit and even bigger goal, so now New York is up 2-1.
Note: In the very beginning of that goal clip (and more clearly about 50 seconds in), you can see Derek Stepan and Matt Carle collide. That opened the door for Fast’s goal to some extent, but it’s possible both players might have gotten hurt on that play. Two of a few possible injury issues to watch after a hectic first period …
The best thing about playing the wing is that you don’t have the same defensive responsibilities that centers do.
That’s the lazy man’s take, at least. (And coming from a blogger, an appropriate one.)
But it’s also why Steven Stamkos has been shifted to the wing, according to Lightning coach Jon Cooper.
“The one thing I thought, he’s spending too much time in the [defensive] zone, and he’s spending way too much energy down there,” Cooper said this morning ahead of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final versus the Rangers.
“So to free him up a little bit, and let him get out of the zone a little faster and not have to play the whole 200 feet, I thought was something that was going to save his legs and give him a little more time.”
Lately, Stamkos has been centered by Valtteri Filppula, with Alex Killorn on the opposite wing.
“To have a player like Fil who can control the puck the way he does, ” said Cooper, “he sees the ice, he can get those pucks to Stammer. He’s somebody that transports the puck really well.”
Frankly, Stamkos has always struck me more as a winger than a center. The three forwards that had the most shots during the regular season (Alex Ovechkin, Rick Nash, Max Pacioeretty) are all wingers. It’s a position that lends itself to players with good shots, and Stamkos certainly has one of those. He just needs more opportunities to use it.
Related: Stamkos doesn’t mind winging it
The New York Rangers have been able to get this far while averaging just two goals per game, but just because they’ve been able to do that doesn’t mean its ideal or will continue to work going forward. The Tampa Bay Lightning handed the Rangers their first blowout loss of the 2015 playoffs Monday night and it remains to be seen if the Rangers can respond.
They’ve had great goaltending and Monday’s loss aside, the Rangers’ defense has been an asset. But some of their forwards haven’t been getting the job done with the puck and no one exemplifies that more than Rick Nash. After scoring 42 markers in the regular season, he has just two goals and seven points in 14 playoff contests. Combine that with his offensive struggles in 2013 and questions are being raised about his ability to produce when the stakes are raised.
NBC’s Keith Jones put it bluntly on Monday:
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault continues to defend his star player, but that doesn’t mean he thinks the Rangers can get by with the status quo from Nash in terms of production.
“I mean, again, he’s working extremely hard,” Vigneault said, per the Bergen Record. “He’s getting physically involved. He’s getting some looks. Would I like him to finish on some of those looks? Yes. Do we need him to finish on those looks? Probably, yes. He knows that.”
Vigneault went on to emphasize that it’s not just Nash that they need more out of and that was certainly the case on Monday. Still, a breakout night from Nash would likely go a long way towards tipping the Eastern Conference Final in the Rangers’ favor.
Game 3 will air on NBCSN and is scheduled to start at 8:00 p.m. ET tonight.