Teams that win Game 5 of a 2-2 series have an auspicious history in the NHL.
Both clubs knew that heading into Sunday night's tilt at Madison Square Garden, and for the first half of the game, it looked like the New York Rangers might protect their home ice advantage and force the Tampa Bay Lightning to do what they did in Round 1; sweep a home-and-home in Games 6 and 7 in order to advance.
Ben Bishop was strong in net through the game's first period and a half, particularly on 4 New York power plays that saw decent puck movement but not a ton in the way of grade A scoring chances.
Tampa Bay hung around with a 0-0 score just long enough for their top-6 to come through for them once again. Anton Stralman, after an incredibly long shift pinned in, skated the puck out of trouble and made a beautiful long pass to Steven Stamkos at the right wing boards who quickly turned up ice and created a 3-on-2 break with his speed. Drawing the defense to him, he found Valtteri Filppula in the slot for a snap shot and a 1-0 lead the Lightning probably didn't deserve.
That goal was critical though, as the Bolts started to pin the Rangers in a bit; good shifts from the Tyler Johnson and Brian Boyle lines followed, and the Lightning drew a power play of their own late in the 2nd when Marc Staal tripped Nikita Kucherov. Steven Stamkos delivered, scoring for the 4th consecutive game, and in spite of playing well at even strength for a very small amount of time, the Lightning headed into the final frame up a pair.
The pushback in the 3rd period was expected from a now-desperate Rangers squad, but the Bolts did a fair job of managing the Rangers opportunities to use their speed or create anything off the rush, forcing plays to the perimeter and collapsing around Bishop.
Henrik Lundqvist left the net with 3:10 remaining but the Rangers really didn't do much at 6v5; Tyler Johnson just missed an empty cage with time expiring, and Bishop's 26 saves were enough for the shutout. The Lightning now have the opportunity to close this series out on home ice in Game 6 and head to their first Stanley Cup Final since 2004.
- Playing 7D has become just as much about guarding against injury and illness as it is a tactical advantage. Braydon Coburn left early in this one and did not return to the ice during regulation; he did take a few skates during TV timeouts but with Matt Carle back and Nikita Nesterov still in, there was no need to force him back on the ice. He ended up with just 5:43 of ice time.
- On Coburn:
Cooper wouldn't confirm Coburn was sick but he said "We had issues on our bench" and warned media not to walk by their bench.— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) May 25, 2015
- Outside a nice stretch in the 2nd period, the Rangers were the better team at evens, but the Lightning special teams were surprisingly good. 4/4 on the penalty kill and a tic-tac-goal for Steven Stamkos ended up being difference makers in an absolutely pivotal Game 5.
- Ben Bishop's workload:
- After the game, Ben Bishop admitted to taking a shot at the empty net when a dumped-in puck came to him behind his own net. He flubbed the attempt, though. Still, take a tremendous amount of confidence for a goaltender to even try to do that, so there doesn't seem to be any worry about Bishop's mindset moving forward.