The weird streak of New York Rangers playoff games ending with just one goal of a difference continues, but there’s nothing to celebrate as the Tampa Bay Lightning take the lead in the series (2-1) following a 6-5 victory with another fantastic performance by Nikita Kucherov and more scoring from Tyler Johnson.
Kucherov, finishing with a goal and an assist, scored the overtime winning goal, his 7th of the postseason, a minute after Henrik Lundqvist pulled off a great save on the breakaway from J.T. Brown. Lundqvist made 34 saves on 40 shots, but with the game once again being in the kind of pace the Lightning constantly want to enforce, it was a matter of time until the Rangers wouldn’t be able to keep up.
The triplets of Johnson, Kucherov and Ondrej Palat (2 goals, 1 assist) continue to be the most fearsome group of scorers in this postseason. They have 25 goals between them and while the Rangers managed to hold on for the ride this time, it’s hard seeing them reaching the Stanley Cup for a second time if this kind of pace and hockey (getting outshot 40-28) continues.
We’ve got a pretty quick team, and they have a quick team. I don’t know how it looks to everybody else and I don’t know how it looks on TV, but when you’re standing there, it’s just, pardon the pun, it’s lightning fast. It’s just amazing how the skill level and the speed and how these guys can play the way they do at that high pace. It’s fun to watch our guys. They’ve impressed me for a long time, and now they’re impressing the world.
The Rangers jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first period (Derick Brassard and Jesper Fast) but Steven Stamkos put the Lightning in the game, beginning a run of four straight goals until Fast scored his second to end the second period, and put the Rangers once more behind by one goal. Ryan McDonagh tied the game on the power play and Palat gave the Lightning another lead, but the Rangers once again hit late in a period, with Dan Boyle scoring with less than two minutes to go, sending the game to overtime.
But overtime was just more of the same. The Lightning speeding by and attacking wave after wave, line after line, keeping Lundqvist very busy; too busy. It wasn’t a very good performance for Ben Bishop with only 23 saves, but he has a much better, hungrier and productive offense to cover for him when he has days like these, in which he could use a little bit more focus.