Tyler Johnson and the Tampa Bay Lightning continued the Rangers' hex in Game 2s -- with skill and flair.
The diminutive winger scored a hat trick in the first 38:17 -- the first in team playoff history -- as the Rangers lost another Game 2 at home, 6-2, Monday night at Madison Square Garden. The Eastern Conference final is tied at 1 with Game 3 Wednesday night night in Tampa.
The final score also ended the Rangers' record streak of playoff games decided by one goal at 15.
The game was eerily reminiscent of the Rangers' three regular-season losses to the Lightning, in which Tampa outscored them 15-7.
With the Rangers trailing 3-2 early in the third period, the wide-open pace from the end of the second continued and Tampa pulled away. Goaltender Ben Bishop stopped Rick Nash's break-in and Jesper Fast's rebound.
Derek Stepan went to the box for tripping at 1:02, the ninth penalty of the evening. Seven seconds after the Blueshirts killed it, Alex Killorn buried a pretty pass from Victor Hedman for a 4-2 lead at 3:09, and when Derick Brassard went off for high-sticking, Steven Stamkos' deflection made it 5-2 at 6:28, the Lightning's second power-play goal.
Killorn scored his second of the night on a power play at 17:58 to close out the scoring.
As for the Game 2 miseries, the Rangers' woes continued. They are 10-16 since the Stanley Cup Final in 1994, but only one of those 10 wins came at home.
Johnson, one of Tampa's young "Triplets" line who has an NHL-leading 11 goals in the playoffs, set the tone early and the Lightning never trailed, as the Rangers lost battles and, eventually, their structure and poise.
Six minor penalties were called in the first 11 minutes of the first period. The results? Two power-play goals and a shorthander, and the score after 20 minutes was Tyler Johnson 2, Rangers 1.
An early Rangers' five-on-three for 1:07, when Jason Garrison was called for delay of game, turned into a disaster for Martin St. Louis. First, the veteran forward stumbled in the offensive zone, losing the puck. Johnson raced down ice and put his own rebound through Henrik Lundqvist as St. Louis crashed into the goalie and the post, dislodging the net. The referee initially signaled no goal, but a video review overruled the call, saying the puck was in before the net was dislodged, making the score 1-0 at 5:38.
Chris Kreider's sixth goal of the playoffs, on a rebound with Brendan Morrow off for high- sticking, tied the score at 1. Dan Boyle's point shot was deflected by St. Louis and bounced near the right post to Kreider, who beat Ben Bishop at 8:50.
But the march to the penalty box didn't end there. Three whistles were blown in a minute. Kreider was sent off for roughing at 10:00, Tampa Bay's Ryan Callahan for tripping at 10:31, and Stepan for tripping at 11:00.
Johnson scored his second goal on the 4-on-3 at 11:15, burying a snap shot from the doorstep to the left of Lundqvist after taking a pass from Stamkos. A seventh penalty, high-sticking on Derick Brassard at 15:14, was killed off by the Blueshirts.
Johnson scored his third goal when Ondrej Palat's wrister hit the post and in the scramble got his stick on the loose puck and poked it past a sprawled Lundqvist at 8:17 of the second.
With Cedric Paquette off for interference after decking Dom Moore, Stepan, with his third goal in three games, trimmed the lead to 3-2 when he banked a shot from behind the net off a fallen Braydon Coburn and across the goal line at 14:17.