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Verge, brink, elimination game; Tampa Bay Lightning versus New York Rangers game 6 preview

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The Eastern Conference Finals could be at an end tonight, if the Lightning are ready to stave off the Rangers onslaught. It's all-or-nothing for them, and should be he same from Tampa to stop them.

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Reinhold Matay-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, Doinow.com

This moment has only existed twice previously in the Tampa Bay Lightning's 23 year franchise history. Tampa Bay is one win away from a berth in the Stanley Cup Finals. One last victory and they win the right to play for the chalice many on this team have quested for since childhood.  That's another series of games, though, another battle where toiling through pain and giving more than your all is vital to success. First things first, and that's tonight and game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Lightning have been in this position - in the driver seat in an Eastern Conference final series, once before. That was the 2004 playoffs against the Philadelphia Flyers. Game 6 was played at the Amalie (formerly known as Tampa Bay Times Forum by way of then-name St. Pete Times Forum, nee Ice Palace) and Philly did what they had to do in that game by getting the win (in overtime) and forcing a finale what is now known as Amalei Arena (but was then known as St. Pete Tiems Forum)

Last time an elimination game of a Conference Finals variety was played in our house, it was 2011 and, again, a game 6 affair. The Bolts faced Boston and forced a decisive game 7 at TD Garden. That game was played 4 years and one day ago, where the Lightning had to give more than their all to survive.

That's what you need to expect from the New York Rangers tonight at the Amalie - everything and more to keep their season going one more game (at least) and bring this series back to Madison Square Garden. Despite the over-reaction disgust I've seen from Rangers blogs blaming the Blueshirts for "not showing up", their efforts against the Bolts for more than half a game (and Tampa Bay playing on their heels and not getting chances, or penalty calls against the Rangers) made it feel like only a matter of time before New York went on the scoreboard.

That changed after Valtteri Filppula scored on Sunday night. A deflation started, but didn't entirely happen despite Tampa Bay scoring on the power play to increase the lead. If that had been the case, where the Rangers ran out of gas, then a 2-0 final would have been weighted more heavily toward the Lightning. Heck, Tampa Bay couldn't score on the Rangers empty net. A team that "didn't show up" doesn't stop that from happening.

A team that wrecks the opponent's nerves for half a game shouldn't be accused of not showing up. The opponent stood their ground against them and staved them off until opportunity knocked.

Ben Bishop faced 26 shots on goal, not as many as the Rags could have gotten off in the game, but more than Henrik Lundqvist faced at the other end of the ice (22 shots faced, 20 saves).

The Rangers will throw it all (and then some) at the Lightning to stave off the end of their 2014-15 season. The way you oppose it is to do just the same; don't think about tomorrow because there is no tomorrow, there is no round beyond this, no award or merit to be thrust upon the victory. The focus needs to be on attaining the victory. Thoughts that ramble to the Stanley Cup finals, the Western Conference finals, or reflecting on the course that got the team to this moment will only lead to the golf course at this moment.

Yes, there's a game 7 if the Lightning fail, but going into tonight with that mentality of the escape-on-failure route is the wrong type of mentality to have going forward.

Morning skate had Cedric Paquette take an amble on ice early and then leave. He blocked a shot during game 5 and lost some ice time because of it. He'll likely be a game time decision. Defenseman Brayden Coburn, who left Sunday night with illness, participated in the morning skate. If Paquette can't go tonight, the thought from Lightning beat writer Erik Erlendsson is that Vladislav Namestnikov will get the nod in his absence. Jon Cooper remarked post-skate that Paquette's status is questionable for tonight.

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