TAMPA, FL – Here we are again. The New York Rangers are facing elimination. It’s a familiar position for the Rangers, who faced elimination against both the Penguins and Hurricanes and found a way to win. The Blueshirts’ route to the edge of elimination this series against the Lightning has been different.
NY never led either series against the Pens or Canes – until they won Game 7 in each series. In this Lightning series, they took a 2-0 series lead before losing three straight. They even led Game 3 2-0 before a host of bad penalties let the Lightning back into the game on two power play goals. Jacob Trouba was especially detrimental with three of the Rangers’ six penalties. Including taking a bad penalty when New York had a 4-minute power play. It was a frustrating loss to say the least. It’s been Trouba’s MO this season. Some great defensive play and physicality, but too many penalties. Far, far too many. And in Game 3, the penalties destroyed any chance of the Rangers winning the game.
Game 4 wasn’t much better. Playing every other night for over a month has finally started to wear on the Rangers and the injuries are starting to mount, especially at the center position. Filip Chytil and Ryan Strome were both injured and the makeshift forward lines couldn’t get anything going. It was an ugly loss and the series was tied coming back to The Garden for Thursday night’s Game 5.
The Rangers played well in Game 5 and took the lead in the second period. The Lightning equalized late in the second period on a screened goal that Igor Shesterkin didn’t see until it was behind him. The third period was played evenly for the most part. Late in the period Ryan Strome found himself on the puck with a gaping net in front of him but somehow didn’t bury the puck. And it wasn’t the first time this series. It was a costly miss as soon after, the Rangers couldn’t control the puck in their own zone and another screened shot ended up behind Shesterkin. It was another bad loss and now the Rangers head to Tampa tonight with their season on the line.
Obviously, the Rangers need to win one on the road tonight to force a Game 7 at The Garden. They will need to play a clean game, make strong plays on the puck, get it deep into the Lightning zone, and stay out of the penalty box. That last one is crucial. The New Yorkers can’t keep giving a team like the Tampa a man advantage and expect to win. They also need to take their chances and score on the rare occasions when Vasilevskiy is out of position. The Lightning will look to smother the Rangers tonight. The Blueshirts just need to find a way to score. Shesterkin will stop the pucks he can see. So the Rangers defenseman need to be better at clearing the bodies from in front of net.
It should be a good one tonight. The Broadway Blues are looking to keep the streak of four consecutive wins in elimination games alive. The Lightning are looking to put the nail in the coffin and get one step closer to winning a third consecutive Stanley Cup.
Lets Go Rangers!