The Tampa Bay Lightning managed to eliminate the Montreal Canadiens in the second round, but they didn’t make it look pretty. After taking a 3-0 series lead, it took three attempts to finally clinch. Some of the mistakes that plagued Tampa Bay in the second half of the previous series now seem to be bleeding into the Eastern Conference Final against the Rangers.
“What got us through the Montreal series is not what we did tonight in some parts of the game. What got Montreal back in the series was what we did for big parts of the game tonight,” Lightning bench boss Jon Cooper said after this afternoon’s 2-1 loss to New York.
Cooper felt like the team didn’t attempt enough shots and their five-on-five play could have been better. The Rangers certainly dominated the game in that regard as you can see below, per War on Ice:
The Rangers similarly had an 18-13 edge in five-on-five scoring chances.
“I’ve got no answer why in Game 1 of a Conference Final why that happened,” Cooper said. “But I thought after the second or third period, both teams had chances. It was a pretty good hockey game.”
The game certainly remained close despite the Rangers edge at even strength. If this series plays out like the Rangers’ previous two, then we’re likely in for a lot more close, low scoring games. Then again Tampa Bay led the league in scoring during the regular season. The Rangers previous opponents, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, had star forwards, but not as much offensive depth as Tampa Bay. Perhaps that will be the key for the Lightning in this series, but that certainly wasn’t the case on Saturday.