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: