Video: Stamkos leaves Hayes hazy with big hit

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This just in: Steven Stamkos doesn’t just shoot the puck hard.

The Tampa Bay Lightning forward can deliver a big hit every now and then, as hulking New York Rangers forward Kevin Hayes learned early in Game 3. Here’s video of that check, if you want to make your own judgments regarding whether it’s clean or not.

Stamkos didn’t receive a penalty on the play. Shortly after that check, Dominic Moore sat in the box for two minutes after cross-checking Tyler Johnson. Things are getting a little nasty so far in this contest.

If you’d like to see that Stamkos hit on Hayes in GIF form, check it out here:

Stamkos is definitely making his presence felt, as he also scored a key goal for Tampa Bay, shrinking the Rangers’ lead to 2-1.

Enough action for you?

Fast and furious: Rangers build lead, Carle and Stepan may be banged up

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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 …

Lightning dress an extra defenseman once more

Much like in Game 2, the Tampa Bay Lightning are rolling with 11 forwards and seven defensemen against the New York Rangers tonight.

That more or less means that promising blueliner Nikita Nesterov will remain in the mix, while Jonathan Drouin and his questioned defense prowess will not.

Apparently going with an extra defenseman and one fewer forward has worked out quite well for the Bolts:

Coach Cooper explains why Stamkos is a winger now

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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

‘When Hedman is going, our team’s going,’ says Lightning coach Cooper

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The last time the Tampa Bay Lightning was in an Eastern Conference Final, towering Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman was only a sophomore in the league.

A prized young player at the time, the six-foot-six-inch Hedman has, especially over the last two seasons and now at the age of 24, developed into the top blue liner on the Lightning.

“I’ve been able to learn from that year, and I feel like I want to take responsibility. I want to be a leader. I want to be a difference maker on the ice,” Hedman told reporters Tuesday.

Not only does he lead the Lightning in ice time during these playoffs, he leads all Tampa Bay defensemen in points with eight in 15 games.

He added to his point total in a dominant Game 2 victory over the Rangers on Monday, with a beautiful cross-ice set-up to Alex Killorn for an easy goal into an open net. Hedman, from the left point, faked the shot, then slid a perfect pass to his teammate. The floodgates opened from there.

“Well, Victor, I don’t think you get to this part of the season without having a top, elite-tier defenseman. And he is that for us, I think,” said head coach Jon Cooper.

“You look at the two of them, when he and (Anton Stralman) are paired together, I think it’s as good as you’re going to get in this league. He plays the whole 200 feet. He’s blessed with the size, the skill, the speed. He can make plays like he did last night to Killorn.

“Just can’t say enough. If I look at our year, obviously (Ben Bishop) is the guy that anchors us back there. But when Hedman is going, our team’s going. Sometimes when he’s not, our team isn’t, and that says a lot about a player that he has that much effect on our team.”