New York Rangers take 2-0 series lead with 3-2 win over Lightning

New York Rangers - Kreider demotion
New York Rangers defenseman K’Andre Miller (79) celebrates with left wing Chris Kreider (20) after scoring on Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) in the first period of Game 2.
AP Photo/John Minchillo

The kids took care of the goals, the defense shut down one of the best teams in the NHL and the New York Rangers did something no team has done in the playoffs since 2019.

The Rangers defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 in Game 3 at Madison Square Garden on Friday night and snapped a streak of 17 straight playoff games in which Tampa Bay has been victorious following a loss. The Lightning have not trailed 0-2 in a series since the first round of the 2019 playoffs against the Columbus Blue Jackets. 

The Rangers now hold a 2-0 series lead as the festivities shift to Tampa Bay and have won four straight postseason games. The win on Friday was also their eighth straight at Madison Square Garden. 

“We heard all year that wasn’t really going to have playoff success,” said Adam Fox, who had a pair of assists in the win. “We’ve said it all year, the belief in the room is high and the outside opinions isn’t really affecting anyone. Coming from down 3-1, down 2-0 and (the Lightning) obviously had a good playoff streak of not losing back-to-back games, but that’s not really in our minds coming into the games.

“We’re not thinking about what streaks teams have or how they’ve done earlier. It’s right now and we’re just trying to bring it day in and day out.” 

Youngsters K’Andre Miller and Kaapo Kakko each scored, while Mika Zibanejad added New York’s third goal for good measure in the opening minutes of the third. The Rangers defense played a suffocating brand of hockey for the better part of the 60-minute affair and Igor Shesterkin turned away all but two of the shots he faced. 

The Rangers netminder finished the game with 29 saves as New York took a 2-0 lead in the series as things shift to Tampa Bay. The Rangers held the Lightning to 31 shots on Friday, which included keeping them to just 10 in the second period. 

Part of the Blue Shirts’ success came from their ability to contain the potent Tampa Bay offense. New York forced 22 giveaways in Game 2 and had 15 takeaways on the night, which led to several scoring chances. 

“I think just sticking to our game plan,” Miller said about the Rangers’ effort. “Obviously, they’re a skilled team with a lot of experience in these playoffs, so I think it was just about managing that and trying to keep our game simple and stick to the game plan.” 

It was Miller’s goal moments after the Lightning scored in the first that swung the moment of the game. The Rangers quickly turned up the pressure and after Artemi Panarin was denied on a breakaway and the Kid Line caused some havoc, Miller tied the game up at one at 5:59. 

New York Rangers
New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) makes a save in the second period of Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Friday, June 3, 2022, in New YorkAP Photo/John Minchillo

The New York defenseman had his initial shot from the point blocked by Brandon Hagel, but collected the puck back up and fired one past Andrei Vasilevskiy. The goal was Miller’s second of the playoffs. 

Aside from a chance from Steven Stamkos in front of the net in the middle of the period, which Shesterkin expertly turned away, the Rangers put their foot on the gas for the rest of the first. It culminated with a goal from Kaapo Kakko at the 17:32 mark. 

Adam Fox set up Alexis Lafreniere for a scoring chance that was turned away by Vasilevskiy, but the defenseman was able to get the puck back and found Kakko for the deflection goal to put New York ahead 2-1. 

Zibanejad made it 3-1 when he scored 1:21 into the third period after the Lightning botched a clearing attempt. New York turned the play around and Zibanejad put one past the blocker of Vasilevskiy.

“It was a big goal obviously,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said about the third goal. “We knew they were going to push real hard and we held on a little bit there and too much for me, but we battled and found a way. We’re playing against a real good team over there.” 

Tampa Bay scored nine seconds into their first power play of the game to take the 1-0 lead. Nikita Kucherov got a shot off just above the faceoff circle that beat Shesterkin at the 2:41 mark of the first period. 

For more coverage of the Rangers and Lightning series, head to amNY.com.

The Lightning ended up on the man-advantage after Ryan Reaves and Pat Maroon got into a shoving match that ultimately resulted in Reaves getting called for slashing. 

Their second goal of the night came at the 17:58 mark after Nick Paul beat Shesterkin.