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2015 NHL Playoffs Game 19 recap: Rangers beat Lightning, force Game 7 in New York

The Lightning played well for two periods, albeit behind by a single goal for most of that time, before an inexplicably lackluster third period saw the Rangers bury them. The teams will now head back to New York for the decisive Game 7 on Friday.

New York's James Sheppard scores as the Rangers beat the Lightning 7-3 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final Tuesday night in Tampa
New York's James Sheppard scores as the Rangers beat the Lightning 7-3 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final Tuesday night in Tampa
Reinhold Matay, USA TODAY Sports Images

The New York Rangers beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 7-3 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final Tuesday night in Tampa.

The formula was pretty simple and familiar for the New York Rangers Tuesday night: get an early lead, play good defense, watch the Lightning not play good defense, let your superstar goalie (in this case, Henrik Lundqvist) be himself and completely ignore any alleged Amalie Arena home ice mystique. When the Rangers (or anybody else they've faced in the postseason so far, for that matter) beat the Lightning, this is more or less how it happens.

Fans looking for what the Lightning put on display in Game 5 on Sunday, while maybe not thrilled, probably still felt pretty good about the effort they were seeing until the third period when they witnessed what can only be described as a collapse.

The Rangers struck first at 3:36 on a goal from Derick Brassard once again on the always-ominous First Shot Of The Game. He was assisted by J.T. Miller and Dan Boyle.

The lead doubled at 15:30 when Keith Yandle scored, a goal that was originally credited to Miller. Brassard and Rick Nash chipped in with helpers.

At 17:20, Ryan Callahan gave the Lightning life with a breakaway goal, his first of the postseason, getting assists from Anton Stralman and goaltender Ben Bishop.

The period ended with the Rangers holding a 2-1 lead but with the Lightning having outshot them 16-7.

In the second period, TB maintained an advantage in shots taken, 13 to 11 and continued to apply consistent offensive pressure but neither team was able to score. The Lightning came close to solving Lundqvist a number of times but were thwarted on shots that might have registered if they had been elevated. Whether or not that had a demoralizing effect on the Lightning, even though they only trailed by a single goal at that point, is open for conjecture, but for whatever reason they began the third period inexplicably and frustratingly flat.

At 3:02 of the third, New York potted their third goal and the Lightning were visibly deflated. This was evidenced by the Rangers taking control and recording two more goals (one from James Sheppard, the other from Brassard) in the next four minutes, making the score 5-1 with just under 13 minutes remaining and ending Bishop's night between the pipes. He was pulled for Andrei Vasilevskiy, having stopped 21 of 26 shots he faced. Vasilevskiy would go on to turn away six of seven in the relief effort.

At the 7:50 mark, Nikita Kucherov scored on an assist from Tyler Johnson.

That was answered by a Rangers power play goal at 10:21 from Nash with assistance from Yandle and Miller.

The Lightning provided one final glimmer of hope when Kucherov scored again at 13:21, this time getting help from Johnson and Nikita Nesterov. After that, they tried to build on what momentum that goal sparked, including pulling Vasilevskiy for an extra attacker with about three minutes but were unable to come close again.

What hope remained was snuffed at 18:19 when Brassard scored into the empty net.

The Eastern Conference champion will be crowned when the series concludes with Game 7 in New York on Friday night.

Game notes:

  • The Rangers are 43-0-1 this season, including 7-0 in the playoffs when leading after two periods.
  • Steven Stamkos' goal streak comes to an end at four games, remaining tied for the franchise record.
  • Bishop followed up his second shutout of the playoffs by allowing five goals for the third time in the series, all at Amalie Arena.
  • The Lightning blocked 24 shots in Game 5, led by Brian Boyle with five. Tonight, they recorded 12, with Victor Hedman leading the team with three.
  • After leading the NHL with a 32-8-1 record at home during the regular season, the Lightning are a severely underwhelming 5-5 at Amalie Arena in the playoffs.
  • Johnson now leads all NHL skaters with 20 points in the 2015 NHL Playoffs.
  • The Lightning honored George and Leonard Levy as the 51st Lightning Community Heroes of the season during the first period of tonight's game. The Levy's, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to the Boys and Girls Club. These twin brothers have worked tirelessly with civic leaders and fellow business owners to cultivate the sports, economic and community landscape that the Tampa Bay community enjoys today. They recently turned 80-years old and have been blessing Tampa Bay with a combined 160 years of community service, helping bring four professional franchises to the area and established many local youth athletic programs. Both have been recognized separately as citizens of the year and honored for their ethics in business and work for many causes including the Boys and Girls Club, the Gold Shield Foundation, alpha House, the Centre for Women and the Salvation Army.