TAMPA, Fla. — After four games, the Eastern Conference Finals has turned into a best-of-three affair.
The New York Rangers tied the best-of-seven series at two games apiece with a 5-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday night at Amalie Arena. The Rangers received two goals from winger Rick Nash and others from center Chris Kreider, defenseman Keith Yandle and winger Marty St. Louis to guarantee that a return to Tampa will be necessary for Game 6 next Tuesday.
Despite the loss, the Lightning finished with a commanding 39-24 shot advantage. They weren’t short on quality scoring chances, especially in the first period, when winger Nikita Kucherov (shot sailed high) and center Tyler Johnson (shot hit the cross bar) had prime opportunities.
Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who received heat for allowing six goals in each of the past two games, finished with 38 saves. Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop, meanwhile, closed with 19 stops.
Tampa Bay’s lone goal came from center Steven Stamkos 11:30 into the second period. The game turned shortly after, when the Rangers built a two-goal cushion with a late second-period flurry that included scores from Kreider and Yandle. Yandle’s shot found the net after it was deflected off the right leg of Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman. The Lightning never mounted a significant rally in the third period.
The result allows the Rangers to avoid the daunting possibility of trying to hand the Lightning three consecutive losses to advance to the Stanley Cup Final. Instead, New York will fly home after regaining home-ice advantage prior to Game 5 on Sunday.
THE TURNING POINT
Kreider’s goal 15:16 into the second period, which gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead, served as an important answer for New York after Stamkos tied the score at 1 earlier in the period.