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

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs
Eastern Conference Finals Game #7
#2 Tampa Bay Lightning at #1 New York Rangers
Best of Seven Series Tied 3-3
Friday, May 29, 2015, 8:05 pm Eastern, TV: NBC Sports
Madison Square Garden – New York City, New York
Opening Line: New York -145 / Tampa Bay +125
Current Line: New York -160 / Tampa Bay +140
Opening Total: over 5 -110 / under 5 -110
Current Total: under 5 -115 / over 5 -105

The rangers and Lightning play game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals Friday night at MSG.
The Rangers and Lightning play game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals Friday night at MSG.

Last season, the New York Rangers advanced all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals before losing to the Los Angeles Kings in five games. Now, the Rangers are one win away from defending their Eastern Conference Championship after New York forced a game seven Tuesday night with a win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on the road. Each team has won twice on the road in the series and game seven is Friday night at Madison Square Garden. The winner will face either the Anaheim Ducks or Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley cup Final. The Ducks and Blackhawks will also play a game seven Saturday night in Anaheim.

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 including game seven in overtime.

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.

In game one of this series, New York took a 2-1 victory at home. Tampa Bay would win the next two including 6-2 in game two, and 6-5 in overtime in game three. The Rangers faced a virtual must win in game four in Tampa Bay. New York responded with a 5-1 rout to regain home ice. The series returned to New York for game five and Tampa Bay won 2-0. Game six was in Tampa and New York improved to 4-0 in elimination games in the playoffs with a 7-3 rout.

New York took a 2-0 lead int he first period. Derick Brassard scored 3 minutes into the game assisted by J.T. Miller and Dan Boyle. Keith Yandle scored with just over 4 minutes left in the period assisted by Brassard and Rick Nash. Former Ranger captain Ryan Callahan scored a power play goal for the Lightning two minutes later assisted by Anton Stralman and Ben Bishop to make it 2-1. Tampa Bay outshot the Rangers 16-7 in the period. Neither team scored in the second period.

New York scored three goals in the first 7 minutes of the third to take control of the game. J.T. Miller scored assisted by Brassard and Nash. James Sheppard scored three minutes later assisted by Dominic Moore and Tanner Glass. Brassard made it 5-1 with his second goal assisted by Miller and Nash. Nikita Kucherov scored for Tampa roughly 30 seconds later assisted by Tyler Johnson. Nash scored a power play goal with just under 10 minutes to go assisted by Yandle and Miller. Kucherov made it 6-3 assisted by Johnson and Nikita Nesterov. Brassard added an unassisted third goal late in the game for the hat trick to make the final 7-3.

New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist made 36 saves on 39 shots. Since 2012, he is 15-3 when the Rangers are facing elimination. Tampa goalie Ben Bishop made 21 saves on 26 shots. He was benched in the third in favor of Andrei Vasilevskiy, who allowed one goal on 7 shots faced. Both teams were 1/3 on the power play. Tampa Bay had 20 turnovers to 15 for New York. The Rangers won 35 faceoffs to 31 for the Lightning.

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New York is outscoring teams 2.50-2.17 in the playoffs. The Rangers are 13/60 (21.7%) on the power play in the playoffs and 40/50 (80%) on the penalty kill. The Rangers have allowed one short handed goal in the playoffs. New York averages 31.4 shots per game and allow 30.3 per game.

New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is 11-7 in the playoffs with a 2.11 goals against average. He has a .928 save percentage with no shutouts. He has been the only goalie for the Rangers in the playoffs.

Center  Derick Brassard has 9 goals and 7 assists for the Rangers.  Rick Nash has 5 goals and 9 assists. Derek Stepan has 5 goals and 7 assists. Keith Yandle has 2 goals and 9 assists.  Ryan McDonagh has 3 goals and 6 assists.  Chris Kreider has 7 goals and 2 assists. Dan Boyle has 3 goals and 7 assists.  Former Tampa Bay captain Martin St. Louis, and Jesper Fast all have at least six points in the playoffs. Left wing Mats Zuccarello is questionable with a concussion.

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Tampa Bay is outscoring teams 2.79-2.58 in the playoffs this season. The Lightning are 16/72 (22.2%) on the power play in the playoffs and 54/65 (80.6%) on the penalty kill. The Lightning have 3 short handed goals and have allowed 2. Tampa Bay averages 28.7 shots per game and opponents average 28.4.

Goalie Ben Bishop is 11-8 in the playoffs with a 2.26 goals against average. He has a save percentage of .917 with two shutouts. Bishop was also benched in one of the games against Montreal in favor of Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Center Tyler Johnson has 12 goals and 8 assists. He is probable with the flu. Nikita Kucherov has 9 goals and 10 assists. Steven Stamkos has 7 goals and 10 assists. Alex Killorn has 6 goals and 9 assists. Ondrej Palat has 6 goals and 8 assists. He is also probable with the flu.Victor Hedman has a goal and 9 assists in the playoffs. Valtteri Filppula has 3 goals and 7 assists. Former Rangers captain Brian Callahan is playing after undergoing an appendectomy last week. He has 3 assists in the playoffs.

Tampa Bay is 5-1 after a loss by 3 or more goals, and on two days rest, 4-1 in Friday games, and 6-2 in road games. The road team is 4-1 in this series recently. The Lightning are 7-3 against the Rangers recently including 5-1 in New York.

New York is 14-3 in Friday games, 4-1 on two days rest, 11-4 after scoring 5 goals or more, 53-22 overall, 38-16 against Eastern Conference teams, 36-16 after a win, and 65-31 against teams with losing road records. The over is 4-1 in this series.

Lundqvist is incredible in elimination games. He has struggled at times in this series though as has Bishop. You really don’t know who will show up in net for either team. I think the Rangers win at home, but it will be close.

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