Rangers-Lightning Game 7 preview

Steven Stamkos and the Lightning face a formidable task of upending the Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers at Madison Square Garden in Game 7.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

By Nicholas Goss

An Eastern Conference champion will be crowned Friday night when the New York Rangers host the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 at Madison Square Garden.

The Lightning had an opportunity to clinch a Stanley Cup Final berth in Game 6 on Tuesday night, but the defending East champs used a 5-goal third period for a 7-3 road win.

The Western Conference Final between the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks also requires a Game 7, which will be played Saturday. This is the first time since 2000 and only the second time in the post-1967 expansion era that both conference finals have gone to a Game 7.

The last Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Final was 2011, when the Boston Bruins defeated the Lightning 1-0 at TD Garden.

Here’s a preview of Rangers-Lightning Game 7.

Date, Time, TV Info: Friday, May 29 at 8:00 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network

Leading Scorers: Tyler Johnson (20 points, Lightning), Derick Brassard (16 points, Rangers)

Key Player For Rangers: New York center Derick Brassard was the best player on the ice in Game 6 with a team-leading five points (three goals, two assists), 10 shots on goal and a 53.6 win percentage on faceoffs. A similar performance Friday night likely would give the Rangers a Cup Final berth for the second straight season.

Key Player For Lightning: Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos has played very well in this series with four goals and three assists in the last five games. However, Stamkos was held scoreless with just two shots in Game 6, and his challenge won’t get any easier in Game 7 when the Rangers have last change and can match up their Ryan McDonaghDan Girardi shutdown pairing against Tampa Bay’s top line.

Goaltending Matchup: Lundqvist has won six straight Game 7s, including one during these playoffs in Round 2 when he stopped 35 of 36 shots against the Washington Capitals. After dominating over the first two rounds, Lundqvist has struggled in this series with a .900 save percentage. He was great when he had to be in Game 6, though, stopping 36 of 39 shots.

Lundqvist’s sparkling Game 7 history gives Lightning netminder Ben Bishop a very, very slim margin for error. Bishop has played below average in this series with a .889 save percentage and 19 goals against through six games. The Lightning need a much-improved Bishop or their season will end Friday night.

Prediction: The Rangers have won six straight Game 7s at Madison Square Garden, and that combined with Lundqvist’s stellar elimination game record makes it difficult to pick against the Blueshirts. New York wins 4-2.

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