Big second period helps Rangers to Game 1 win over Lightning

rangers lightning game 1
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Two goals from Filip Chytil and 37 saves from Igor Shesterkin helped the New York Rangers take Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning, 6-2.

The victory was New York’s seventh straight home playoff win, the longest single playoff streak in franchise history.

The Rangers’ postseason motto is “No quit in New York” and they showed that Wednesday night. Their first two goals were soon matched by the Lightning, including Ondrej Palat‘s, which came 42 seconds after Frank Vatrano gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead in the second period.

But that was the closest the Lightning would be in Game 1 as New York scored three times in the second period to open the game up. Chytil’s two goals came in a span of 5:34, both assisted by Alexis Lafrenière, and Andrew Copp and Mika Zibanejad scored in the third to put the cherry on top of a dominant win to begin the series.

Andrei Vasilevskiy, who hadn’t allowed more than a single goal in each of his previous five playoff starts, was in net for all six goals and had to listen to the Madison Square Garden crowd chant “Igor’s better!” multiple times during Game 1. The Lightning netminder didn’t get help from his teammates, who showed signs of rust after a nine-day layoff following their Second Round win over the Florida Panthers.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]

Mistakes, there were plenty from the Lightning, and the Rangers, who didn’t have time for much rest after winning Game 7 over the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday, took advantage.

On Chytil’s second goal, which gave the Rangers a 4-2 lead, Tampa Bay ended up pinned in their own zone. As Anthony Cirelli‘s clearing attempt was caught at the blue line by Adam Fox, it led to lots of Rangers movement within the offensive zone, and Chytil ultimately made them pay following a cross-ice pass from K'Andre Miller.

“He’s growing up to be a man,” said Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant of Chytil. “Every time he goes out there, he’s more confident. He’s stronger. He’s growing up.”

But it’s only Game 1, and that’s fine if you’re the Lightning. Over the last three seasons the defending back-to-back Cup champions are 18-0 following a postseason loss. You can be sure Gallant and the Rangers are aware of that stat and will fully expect a much better effort from their opponents on Friday night.

“A lot of sharpness. Our team just kept going. We got a day off and kept playing,” said Gallant in describing his team’s play. “Obviously, [the Lightning] looked rusty.”

Point remains out

There was a bit of promising news for the Lightning on Wednesday. Forward Brayden Point, who has been out since Game 7 of the First Round with a lower-body injury, skated at MSG on his own. He did drills following the team’s optional skate ahead of Game 1 but there is still no timeline on when he might be available to return to the lineup.

“‘Pointer’ is playing hockey again,” said head coach Jon Cooper. “We just don’t know whether it’s this season, next season, this round, if we’re fortunate enough to win this round … can he play the next one? We don’t know that. Is he improving daily? He is. I think the worst of it is over for him.”

Point had two goals and four points before suffering the injury in the series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’s been a valuable member of the Lightning in their last two Stanley Cup runs, recording 56 points in 46 playoff games.

“If he gets to play in this series, that’s a bonus for everybody,” Cooper said. “It’s great to have him around with our group. He is a big part of our group. But guys are focused on who’s in and ready now.”

NEW YORK RANGERS v. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (NYR leads 1-0)

Game 1 – June 1: Rangers 6, Lightning 2
Game 2 – June 3: Lightning at Rangers, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN, SN, CBC, TVAS)
Game 3 – June 5: Rangers at Lightning, 3 p.m. ET (ESPN, SN, CBC, TVAS)
Game 4 – June 7: Rangers at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN, SN, CBC, TVAS)
*Game 5 – June 9: Lightning at Rangers, 8 p.m. ET, (ESPN, SN, CBC, TVAS)
*Game 6 – June 11: Rangers at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET, (ESPN, SN, CBC, TVAS)
*Game 7 – June 14: Lightning at Rangers, 8 p.m. ET, (ESPN, SN, CBC, TVAS)

* If necessary

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Scroll Down For:

    Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

    Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

    The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

    Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

    Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

    Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

    The Sabres, led by Dahlin, Thompson, Cozens and 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power, are contending to make the playoffs. The organization’s 11-year playoff drought dating to 2011 is by far the longest in the league.

    Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

    avalanche injuries
    André Ringuette/Getty Images
    1 Comment

    ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

    Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

    These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

    In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

    “Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

    Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

    “He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

    Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

    “I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

    Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

    “I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

    Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

    “I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

    Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

    The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

    One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

    “It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

    Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

    Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

    Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

    “Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

    The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

    Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

    Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

    Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

    Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

    The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

    General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

    The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

    Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

    Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

    “I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

    Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

    “Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

    After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.