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Back to even, at the Amalie; Tampa Bay Lightning versus New York Rangers ECFs game 3 preview

The Lightning exploded offensively in Game 2 scoring six goals against Henrik Lundqvist, but need to clean up turnovers and mistakes in front of Bishop as they come home to Amalie Arena for Game 3.

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Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Where:  Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida
When: 8 PM EDT | Tickets: Check availability
Media: NBC Sports Net (cable) | 970 AM WFLA (radio) | Twitter Live Stream
Opponent Coverage: Blueshirt Banter,

Game 2 saw an offensive outburst from the Tampa Bay Lightning. The team lit the lamp six times against Henrik Lundqvist including three off of Tyler Johnson’s stick. Tyler Johnson became the first player in Lightning history to score a hat trick in the playoffs and inched to within a goal of tying Brad Richards and Ruslan Fedotenko’s 2004 playoff goal marks. Tonight, the Lightning will look to continue their momentum at home in Amalie Arena. On the other side of the rink, the Rangers will look to right the ship and play better hockey. With taking the win in Madison Square Gardens, the Lightning have tilted the advantage back to home giving themselves the home ice advantage in the series for now.

Brian Boyle made his return in Game 2 in limited minutes. It will be important for the Lightning to get more contributions from Boyle on the penalty kill and forecheck to continue their success in this series. Nikita Nesterov got the call as the seventh defenseman and it remains to be seen if Coach Jon Cooper will go with the same lineup for Game 3. With the Rangers aggressively taking advantage of match-ups in Game 1, changing up the lines in Game 2 allowed Cooper to confuse the Rangers. Several times, he was able to get his fourth line out against Marc Staal and they played well in those opportunities. It also allowed him to break up the Carle-Sustr pair that often looked lost and confused in Game 1.

The Power Play came to life for the Bolts, striking three times in six opportunities. Since the Detroit series, the bounces have seemed to go the Bolts way on the power play. While I expect we’ll continue to hear fans yelling for them to shoot, luck is on their side right now. Keep putting the pucks on net with this level of skill and pucks are bound to go in.

When asked about playing with Johnson, Palat had this to say about him.

Oh, Johnny, oh, I don't know. Yeah, I played with him, this is my fourth year, he's just a great player. Like I said about Hedy, he's a leader too. It's unbelievable how he has a small size, but his big heart and plays with a big heart. He's just awesome to watch.

Hedman also had this to say about Bishop when asked about making the save when Bishop got caught behind the net, one of the big factors along with Johnson in this series being 1-1.

Well, you know, things happen in a game, and we played behind the net there, and Bishop got stuck. He's bailed me out so many times through the season, he's bailed me out a few times, so it was my turn to return the favor.

Monday was certainly a confidence builder for the Bolts. The game hadn't just been a solid effort by the Bolts but it looked like a regular season affair in how Tampa Bay pushed itself and took advantage of mistakes made by the Rangers as well as capitalizing on opportunities.

In reflection, what stands out isn't the game but the approach by the Rangers and a comment made after morning skating for the Rangers. Derek Brassard spoke up about what was then the game ahead:

#nyrangers Brassard on #tblightning: "They're going to play their best game. We have to be ready. A 2-0 and 1-1 series is totally different."

Though they had an inkling Tampa Bay was going to come out hard and set the tone for the game, obviously the Rangers weren't ready. That, or they wrote off "best effort' as something beneath what they had falled to three times during the regular season. Yes, the regular season doesn't mean squat now yet it does give a perfectly good glimpse of what a team is capable of.

Brassard was right though, there's a big difference between a 2-0 series and a 1-1 series: The Eastern Conference Finals are now a best-of-five affair between the Lightning and Rangers. What's done is done and the outcome of the games to be played will decide the Eastern Conference champion or 2015, not the 2-1 final in game 1 or the 6-2 trouncing in game 2.

24 players on the active roster participated in the morning skating sessions including the enigmatic injured Brian Boyle, rookies Vladislav Namestnikov, Nikita Nesterov and Jonathan Drouin as well as Mark Barberio and Jonathan Marchessault.

Leaving every possibility open for the lineup tonight is not a bad thing, especially from the aspect of the Rangers having to prep for it; will they face the traditional/standard 12 forward, 6 defenseman lineup from the Bolts or the 11 forward, 7 defender split? The lineup that succeeded Monday stays the same for Wednesday, right?  Right??

The only certainties to lock in and plan for tonight are the TKO Trio playing together and Ben Bishop starting in goal for the Lightning. Who else plays with who and the lineup breakdown will be revealed around game time.

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