Lightning don’t want to waste opportunity to close out Rangers at home

TAMPA, Fla. — Entering Tuesday with a chance to close out the Eastern Conference Finals at Amalie Arena, the Tampa Bay Lightning have no desire to see the series extend to a Game 7.

"We have to just realize how close we are and play like this is a Game 7," Lightning center Steven Stamkos said. "We had that mentality in Game 6 against Montreal at home, and hopefully, we feel the same way (tonight)."

Tampa Bay earned a chance to clinch its second appearance in the Stanley Cup Final, after an impressive 2-0 victory over the New York Rangers on Sunday at Madison Square Garden. The Lightning are 2-0 in Game 6 matchups in these Stanley Cup Playoffs, with victories over the Detroit Red Wings (5-2) in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals and Montreal Canadiens (4-1) in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

"We have to do better than we did in Game 5 if we want to win tonight," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "That’s kind of my message.

"It’s excitement, nervousness, fear, anticipation. I can whip through a bunch of things. It’s really an exciting time. But as we go through this, you can’t let yourself get too high, and you can’t let yourself get too low. You’ve just got to ride this out and prepare your guys as much as possible."

The Lightning have prepared for this moment through a variety of postseason experiences. They entered Game 6 against Detroit down 3-2 in the series and needing to win at Joe Louis Arena to keep their season alive. Then they entered Game 6 against Montreal up 3-2 requiring a win at Amalie Arena to avoid a return to the Bell Centre for a Game 7.

With those events as guides, Tampa Bay will carry momentum Tuesday night, after claiming a crucial Game 5 victory Sunday at Madison Square Garden. The Lightning earned their second shutout of the postseason that night, with the first coming against the Red Wings in a 2-0 win in Game 7. Tampa Bay goaltender Ben Bishop had 26 saves against New York, and the Lightning’s penalty kill was successful on all four attempts.

"We have to play the same way as we did in Game 5, tighten it up defensively," Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said. "We know we’re going to get scoring chances. We have so much skill up front, so we know we’re going to get that. But we have to pay attention to our own end, first of all."

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.