Looks like we found the whistles the refs swallowed in Game 1.
Game 2 at Madison Square Garden featured more than a brief came from the referees, who called 7 minor penalties in the first period alone and 12 total in the game, preventing any sort of game flow from developing at even strength for either team. The result -- a series of chaotic breakdowns and rushes -- resulted in a lot of grade A scoring chances but also sloppy, ugly play.
The first two penalty calls both went against the Lightning, as Brian Boyle held Marc Staal on his first shift after returning from injury and Jason Garrison flipped the puck over the glass on the ensuing penalty kill.
Then the unthinkable happened -- after a coughed up puck in the offensive zone off Martin St. Louis' skates, Tyler Johnson broke away with some help from Alex Killorn and put a puck on net that ended up behind Henrik Lundqvist via St. Louis. There was a brief review because the goal was waved off on the ice; but replay showed the puck in the net before the cage came off its moorings. That gave the Lightning the lead, 1-0, in spite of significant time in the early going on the penalty kill.
Those penalties would sting them, however, as Chris Kreider swept in a rebound in front to even the score 1-1.
Johnson wasn't finished with special teams production in the first though; a big Steven Stamkos slap shot was blocked, putting the Rangers penalty killers into scramble mode, and Stamkos fed Johnson who outwaited Lundqvist with a pass option at the side of the net and roofed the puck for a 2-1 lead heading into the break.
Johnson continued his torrid playoffs with an even strength goal early in the 2nd period off what was essentially a 3-on-1 rush; Ondrej Palat's shot hit the post and bounced of Lundqvist's back; both Johnson and Nikita Kucherov whacked away at the loose puck in the crease and Johnson got the last piece to push it over the goal line to make it 3-1.
Special teams would again be a factor, though, as Derek Stepan scored a ricochet goal off Braydon Coburn in the crease after Ben Bishop challenged well out of his crease to stop earlier Ranger chances. That made the score 3-2, and the Rangers looked like they'd crawl back in as Tampa Bay was a mess at even strength for a stretch afterwards. Ben Bishop had to be outstanding to stop a few chances and keep his team ahead heading into the final frame.
Bishop was again very good early in the third, as Tampa Bay's power play lazily moved pucks up ice; the Rangers had two great shorthanded chances on one kill and nearly tied the game.
Tampa Bay would add a huge insurance goal and, you guessed it, it came after a long set-up in the New York zone during a power play. Alex Killorn scored maybe the easiest goal you'll see in this series after a terrific slap pass from Hedman across the center of the ice, finding a hole in defensive zone coverage as the New York defender came out of the box.
Steven Stamkos and Alex Killorn added two more power play goals off long shots from the point; Stamkos deflected one from Braydon Coburn and Killorn potted a rebound of a Jason Garrison shot for the 6-2 final.
- The Tampa Bay power play looked good for a night, but we've seen this before; oddly enough, in both Game 2s of prior series. Tampa Bay scored multiple power play goals in Game 2 vs. both the Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens but they've had their fair share of ice-cold stretches as well. Shot generation still looms as an issue but for now they're capitalizing on the good opportunities they are getting. Can they sustain it?
- A side note on the PP as well -- it was nice to see Tampa Bay using their point some. So much of their system relies on forward play in the scoring chance area and down low, with the point men just there to keep plays alive. Tampa Bay scored two goals off long shots from the point. More tips, deflections, and rebounds on Henrik Lundqvist will be key if they want to keep winning games.
- Jon Cooper opted for an 11-7 lineup again, inserting Nikita Nesterov and a not-quite-100% Brian Boyle with Vlad Namestnikov scratched. It's not an ideal situation but it is difficult to argue with the results; Tampa Bay's best forwards see more time on ice and the defense group is more easily sheltered and rested.
- Tyler Johnson scored a hat trick with a shorthanded goal, a power play goal, and an even-strength goal. He very nearly added several more, with a few very good chances that didn't end up behind Lundqvist.
- Tampa Bay did a good job of converting on good looks, but still needs to do better at carrying the pace of play at evens. This game was seriously disrupted by the amount of penalties called and how quickly the score got out of hand (these two things being related) but the Bolts have yet to play their 'A-game' in this series.
- And yet, they've stolen home ice. Games 3 and 4 will be played at Amalie Arena and not back-to-back this time. All Tampa Bay has to do is win the home games left in this series and they advance to the Stanley Cup Final. Easy enough, right?