***** National Hockey League Previews from The Sports Network *****
Sunday, May 24
(All times Eastern)
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (2-2) AT NEW YORK RANGERS (2-2), 8 P.M.
(SportsNetwork.com) - After two consecutive difficult outings, Henrik
Lundqvist and the New York Rangers responded with a decisive victory to draw
even in the Eastern Conference finals.
The Blueshirts will try to repeat their latest performance when they host the
Tampa Bay Lightning in Sunday's Game 5 battle at Madison Square Garden.
New York, the top overall seed in these playoffs and the defending Eastern
Conference champions, claimed the opener of this best-of-seven set with a 2-1
home victory before allowing six goals in each of the next two games. Tampa
slammed the Rangers 6-2 in Game 2 at the Garden before notching a 6-5 overtime
win at Amalie Arena.
Lundqvist surrendered all 12 scores in Games 2 and 3, but one in particular --
the OT game-winner -- stood out as a bad goal. The wild overtime affair ended
at 3:33 of OT when New York's star goaltender allowed Nikita Kucherov's
fluttering shot from above the right circle to beat him for the win.
However, after falling behind 2-1 in the series, Lundqvist and his offense
answered with a resounding victory in Friday's matchup at Tampa, posting a 5-1
decision to even the series at two games apiece. Lundqvist rebounded with an
excellent showing, stopping 38-of-39 shots to subdue the high-powered
"I think there was a lot of talk about him and about his play, but there
wasn't any doubt from within our dressing room," said New York coach Alain
Vigneault of Lundqvist.
While Lundqvist was able to get his game back on track, Rick Nash also quieted
some of the doubters as he broke out of a slump to lead the New York rout.
Nash registered two goals and one assist, doubling his goal total from the
first 15 games of this postseason. He now has four goals and six assists in
these playoffs after notching a career-high 42 goals during the regular
season. Friday's performance marked career playoff highs for Nash in both
goals and points.
Martin St. Louis also recorded his first goal of the playoffs for New York,
halting a 16-game postseason goal-scoring drought. The veteran winger's last
playoff goal came in Game 4 of last spring's Stanley Cup Finals loss against
"Well, it's always important to have guys like that score," Vigneault said of
Nash and St. Louis. "They feel good about their game. Even though they do so
many different things to help the team, I think when they put the puck in the
net, they get a little extra confidence."
Keith Yandle added a goal and two assists for the Rangers, while Kevin Klein
and Kevin Hayes each had two helpers.
The Rangers have won Game 4 in four of their last five playoff series and they
have taken 13 of their last 18 postseason sets when winning the fourth
New York owns a 4-1 series record the last five times it was tied at 2-2 after
The Lightning received their lone goal from Steven Stamkos, who tied the score
at 1-1 with 8:30 left in the second period. He has registered a tally in three
straight and five of his last six games, giving him six goals this postseason.
Chris Kreider scored less than four minutes after Stamkos to put the Rangers
ahead for good. Yandle then made it a 3-1 game with 2:56 remaining in the
After Lundqvist bounced back with a strong outing the heat is now on Tampa
Bay's Ben Bishop to do the same. On Friday, the Bolts goaltender gave up five
goals for a second straight game, stopping just 19 shots.
The Tampa offense also will try to get its finishing touch back. The Lightning
outshot the Rangers by a sizeable margin in Game 4, but only Stamkos managed
to get the puck past Lundqvist.
The Lightning squandered some of their best scoring chances early in the
game. Kucherov was wide open in front following a faceoff, but he missed the
net. Tyler Johnson then hit the post during a Tampa Bay power play.
"We had our looks," said Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper. "Could you ask for
anything more in the first five minutes than to have Kucherov and Johnson by
themselves in front of the net?"
Tampa's penalty killers will aim for a better showing in Game 5 after yielding
two power-play goals to the Rangers in each of the last three games. New York
has a superb 6-for-13 (46.2 percent) success rate during that span.
"I think right now we're able to capitalize on it," Yandle said of New York's
surging power play. "But even before we were getting chances, but now finding
ways to score, which at this point in the season it's not easy to do."
Lightning defenseman Matt Carle missed Game 4 with an undisclosed injury after
leaving the previous tilt following a collision with Rangers center Derek
Stepan. Mark Barberio replaced Carle in the lineup and played in his first
game since the regular-season finale against Boston on April 11. Carle is
questionable for Game 5.
The Rangers are 6-3 on home ice this postseason, while Tampa Bay is 4-2 as the
Game 6 is scheduled for Tuesday in Tampa.
05/24 10:39:25 ET