A storm brewing: Rangers rally to force Game 7 with Lightning (Video)

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For the second straight series in these playoffs, the New York Rangers have forced a Game 7 after facing elimination.

This time, it will be against the Tampa Bay Lightning, with the winner advancing to the Stanley Cup Final.

It didn’t seem like much of a surprise that the Rangers had held on to take a 2-1 lead into the third period. They’ve been in similar situations like that before. But, needing the win, they erupted for five goals, chasing Ben Bishop from the net, in the third period to defeat the Lightning 7-3 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Derick Brassard recorded the hat trick for New York, capping off a five-point night that started with the opening goal less than four minutes in.

“Honestly I just go out there and I try to just make a difference,” Brassard told NHL.com.

“When I feel like the team needs some support offensively or I feel I need to step up, I just try to do it. I don’t really put any pressure on myself. The disappointment from losing last year I think really hit me from losing the last game at home and facing elimination tonight. We’re not far away to be in the Final again. I just play.”

J.T. Miller and Rick Nash each recorded four-point nights for the Rangers, as well.

The goals came quick in the final period. Miller, James Sheppard and Brassard each scored for New York within the span 4:12, ending the night for Bishop, who allowed five goals on 26 shots.

“That’s why the won the Presidents’ trophy. If you stop thinking about your net for a little bit, that’s what can happen,” said Bishop, as per the New York Daily News.

While the Lightning managed a pair of goals in the third, with New York comfortably ahead at that point, Henrik Lundqvist came up with another strong performance. His biggest save came off Steven Stamkos in the first period, with the Rangers up by a goal.

Shortly after that stop, a left-pad act of denial on one of the league’s best scorers, the Rangers were able to increase their lead, in a physical, at times chippy game.

Stanley Cup finalists a year ago, the Rangers managed to battle back from a 3-1 series deficit in the second round against Washington.

Against Tampa Bay at Madison Square Garden, do the Rangers have another series comeback in them?

We’ll find out Friday.

Video: Brassard opens scoring for Rangers in Game 6

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Facing elimination from the Stanley Cup playoffs, the New York Rangers opened the scoring in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday.

After taking a neat pass from J.T. Miller, Derick Brassard slipped a backhander from in close through the legs of Ben Bishop less than four minutes into the opening period. That’s his seventh goal of these playoffs.

Paquette ‘very questionable’ for Bolts after Game 5 shot block

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Lightning forward Cedric Paquette will be a gametime decision for tonight’s potential Eastern Conference Final close-out game against the Rangers, though the decision may have already been made.

“He’s questionable in your terms,” Bolts head coach Jon Cooper said during today’s media availability. “Very questionable.”

Paquette appeared to injure his right hand while blocking a Derick Brassard shot in the first period:

The gritty forward, who’s appeared in 17 of Tampa Bay’s 18 playoff games thus far, returned after some time in the dressing room, but finished with just 5:43 of ice time — well off his 12:36 TOI per game average this postseason.

Paquette then briefly participated in today’s optional morning skate, before retreating to the dressing room.

If Paquette can’t go tonight, it’s expected that Vladislav Namestnikov will draw in. The Russian forward has one assist in 11 playoff games this spring.

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 …

In case you haven’t noticed, the NHL is a young man’s game

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Just for the sake of the discussion — and since everyone’s talking about Tyler Johnson today — here are all the players who have scored at least five goals in these playoffs:

Johnson (11), Corey Perry (7), Patrick Kane (7), Nikita Kucherov (6), Chris Kreider (6), Vladimir Tarasenko (6), Alex Killorn (6), Derek Stepan (5), Alex Ovechkin (5), Derick Brassard (5), Evgeny Kuznetsov (5), Max Pacioretty (5), Matt Beleskey (5), and Colin Wilson (5).

That’s 14 players. Can you pick out the oldest?

The answer is Anaheim’s Perry, who turned 30 on Saturday. Only slightly younger than Perry, Ovechkin will turn 30 in September.

Otherwise, it’s all players who are comfortably in their 20s, their legs still full of burst, their bodies not yet worn down by the grind of taking hundreds of pucks hard to the net, and all the punishment that goes with scoring goals in today’s NHL.

This isn’t to say that once a goal-scorer turns 30 he should be put out to pasture, like the theory about running backs in the NFL. Marian Gaborik, Justin Williams, and Martin St. Louis all had productive postseasons last year. This year is perhaps an extreme case.

But it does show the importance of youth, and how quickly a player — especially a forward — can go from getting drafted to making a significant impact.

True, patience is required when developing prospects. You don’t want to rush them. There’s nothing wrong with learning the game in the AHL. But at the same time, there has to be a sense of urgency in getting prospects ready for the NHL so they can enjoy as many productive seasons as possible, before their peak years (at a relatively low cap hit) are over.

Hence, all the talk surrounding 20-year-old Jonathan Drouin. While it’s not like the Lightning should be hitting the panic button that he hasn’t yet gained the trust of his coach, it’s not unfair to wonder if he’s fallen a bit behind in his development.

In a related story, Capitals GM Brian MacLellan knows “the next three or four years is the window” in Washington. Because, where will Ovechkin’s game be after that? Where will Nicklas Backstrom’s? The Caps have an opportunity over the next few years to get production from both their veterans and their youth. That’s the sweet spot every GM aims for. And those sweet spots don’t last long.