NHL Eastern Conference Finals Game Four: New York Rangers at Tampa Bay Lightning

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs
Eastern Conference Finals Game #4
#1 New York Rangers at #2 Tampa Bay Lightning
Lightning Lead Best of Seven Series 2-1
Friday, May 22, 2015, 8:05 pm Eastern, TV: NBC Sports
Amalie Arena – Tampa Bay, Florida
Opening Line: Tampa Bay -130 / New York +110
Current Line: Tampa Bay -125 / New York +105
Opening Total: over 5 -110 / under 5 -110
Current Total: over 5 -115 / under 5 -105

The Lightning can take a commanding 3-1 series lead against the Rangers Friday night.
The Lightning can take a commanding 3-1 series lead against the Rangers Friday night.

Going into the Eastern Conference Finals, New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist had a 1.60 goals against average in the playoffs. Even in game one against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Lundqvist was his normal future Hall of Fame self in a 2-1 Rangers win. However, Lundqvist has given up 6 goals in each of the last two games and the Rangers find themselves down 2-1 in the series. Lundqvist also struggled in the regular season against Tampa Bay starting all three games in which the Lightning outscored the Rangers 15-7 winning all three games. Game four is Friday night in Tampa Bay, but if Lundqvist doesn’t get back on track, the Rangers could be down 3-1 in the series.

New York, coached by Alain Vigneault, won the President’s Cup for having the best record in the league during the regular season with a 53-22-7 record and 113 points. The Rangers easily won the Metropolitan Division. In the playoffs the Rangers beat the wild card Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1 in the first round and the #2 seed Washington Capitals in seven games in the conference semifinals. The Rangers trailed the series 3-1 against the Capitals but won 3 straight games. Remarkably, dating back to last season, the Rangers have played 15 of their last 16 post-season games decided by one goal. The only exception was game two against the Lightning which was a 6-2 rout. Nine of their fifteen post season games have been 2-1 games this season.

Tampa Bay, coached by Jon Cooper, finished second in the Atlantic Division with a 50-24-8 record and 108 points, two points behind the Montreal Canadiens. The Lightning beat the #3 seed Detroit Red Wings in seven games in the first round, despite trailing 3-2 in the series. Tampa Bay took a 3-0 series lead against the Canadiens in the second round, but ended up winning the series in six games. Tampa Bay is back in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2011.

The series shifted to Tampa Bay for game three Wednesday night after the teams split in New York. The Rangers scored a minute into the game on a power play goal from Derick Brassard, assisted by Dan Boyle and Derek Stepan. New York made it 2-0 at 10 minutes on a goal from Jesper Fast, assisted by Chris Kreider and Ryan McDonagh. Tampa Bay got back in the game with a goal from Steven Stamkos just over a minute later, assisted by Alex Killorn.

Tampa Bay dominated the second period with three straight goals in the second half of the period. Ondrej Palat scored 10 minutes in on a power play goal assisted by Tyler Johnson and Stamkos. Johnson scored 3 minutes later, assisted by Palat and Victor Hedman. Killorn made it 4-2 Lightning with just under 3 minutes left in the period, assisted by Hedman. Fast scored for the Rangers 30 seconds later, assisted by Kevin Klein and Stepan.

New York tied it up 2 minutes into the third on a power play goal from McDonagh, assisted by Kevin Hayes and Keith Yandle. Tampa Bay regained the lead with just under 6 minutes to go on a goal from Palat assisted by Nikita Nesterov and Nikita Kucherov. Dan Boyle tied it at five with less than 2 minutes remaining, assisted by J.T. Miller and Yandle. Kucherov scored the game winner for Tampa Bay three minutes into overtime, assisted by Nesterov.

Lundqvist allowed 6 goals on 40 shots. Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop struggled as well giving up 5 goals on 28 shots. New York was 2/4 on the power play and Tampa Bay was 1/2. The Lightning had 41 hits to 33 for the Rangers. New York had 18 turnovers to 17 for Tampa bay. The Lightning won 32 faceoffs to 27 for the Rangers.

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New York is both scoring 2.20 and allowing 2.20 goals per game in the playoffs. The Rangers are 10/49 (20.4%) on the power play in the playoffs and 32/40 (80%) on the penalty kill. The rangers have allowed one short handed goal in the playoffs. New York averages 32.1 shots per game and allow 29.7 per game.

New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is 9-6 in the playoffs with a 2.12 goals against average. He has a .926 save percentage with no shutouts. He has been the only goalie for the Rangers in the playoffs.

Center Derick Brassard has 6 goals and 4 assists for the Rangers. Derek Stepan has 5 goals and 7 assists.  Ryan McDonagh has 3 goals and 6 assists. Chris Kreider has 6 goals and 2 assists. Dan Boyle has 3 goals and 5 assists. Rick Nash has 2 goals and 5 assists. He hasn’t scored a point in this series yet. Former Tampa Bay captain Martin St. Louis, Yandle and Fast all have six points in the playoffs. Left wing Mats Zuccarello is questionable with a concussion.

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Tampa Bay is outscoring teams 2.94-2.31 in the playoffs this season. The Lightning are #4 in scoring and #5 in goals allowed. The Lightning are 14/62 (22.6%) on the power play in the playoffs and 46/56 (82.1%) on the penalty kill. The Lightning have 3 short handed goals and have allowed 2. Tampa Bay averages 27.8 shots per game and opponents average 28.4.

Goalie Ben Bishop is 10-6 in the playoffs with a 2.03 goals against average. He has a save percentage of .925 with one shutout. Bishop was benched in one of the games against Montreal in favor of Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Center Tyler Johnson has 12 goals and 6 assists. Nikita Kucherov has 7 goals and 9 assists. Steven Stamkos has 5 goals and 9 assists. Alex Killorn has 6 goals and 8 assists. Ondrej Palat has 6 goals and 7 assists. Victor Hedman has a goal and 9 assists in the playoffs. Valtteri Filppula has 2 goals and 6 assists. Former Rangers captain Brian Callahan is playing after undergoing an appendectomy last week. He has 3 assists in the playoffs.

New York is 13-3 in Friday games, 10-3 after scoring 5 goals or more, 28-10 in road games, 51-21 overall, 36-15 against Eastern Conference teams, 38-18 on one day rest, 3-7 after allowing 5 goals or more, and 1-4 against Atlantic Division teams. The over is 5-1 in this series recently and 3-0-1 in Tampa between the teams.

Tampa Bay is 4-0 in Friday games, 6-1 on one day rest, 4-1 against Metropolitan Division teams, 40-14 at home, 8-3 overall and against Eastern Conference teams, 5-2 after allowing 5 goals or more, after scoring 5 goals or more and after a win. The Lightning have won 6 of the last 7 games against the Rangers.

Tampa Bay’s second line of  Johnson, Palat and Kucherov is nicknamed the Triplets. They have been unstoppable in the last two games. If that continues, then New York will be in trouble. High scoring games are not the Rangers’ strong suit and they need to slow down the Lightning. I think the Rangers rebound and even the series.

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