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Lightning are better but it’s not enough as Rangers take Game Two, 3-2

The streak of winning games after losses is over and the Bolts have dug themselves quite a hole.

Tampa Bay Lightning v New York Rangers - Game Two Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

For the first time in their last 11 playoff series the Tampa Bay Lightning have lost two games in a row. Mika Zibanejad’s third period goal proved to be the difference as the New York Rangers take a 2-0 lead in the series with a 3-2 victory over the Lightning. K’Andre Miller and Kaapo Kakko scored the other goals for the Rangers while Nikita Kucherov and Nick Paul had the tallies for the Lightning. Igor Shesterkin stopped 29 of 31 while Andrei Vasilevskiy made 25 saves for the Lightning.

Unlike in Game One the Lightning avoided the early deficit and they even managed an early lead. Off of a center-ice face-off, Ryan Reaves and Pat Maroon had a little tussle and were warned by the refs. When the puck was dropped, they went at it again and the refs felt that Reaves had a little too much stick work going on and sent the Ranger off for slashing. Nine seconds into the power play a shot from Nikita Kucherov was deflected slightly by Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren and snuck past Shesterkin on the shortside.

Nikita Kucherov (Victor Hedman, Anthony Cirelli) Power Play, 1-0

After the goal, the Rangers finally found some zone time and eventually scored to tie the game. An initial shot was blocked by Brandon Hagel (who was in an extreme amount of discomfort after) but the puck came back to K’Andre Miller who ringed it past Vasilevskiy.

K’Andre Miller (Frank Vatrano, Chris Kreider), 1-1

The goal only seemed to energize the home team as they slowly began to dominate possession. Despite killing two penalties (a roughing by Erik Cernak and a slash by Stamkos) another Rangers goal felt inevitable. Late in the period they worked the puck around and Adam Fox slotted a nifty pass to Kaapo Kakko who was alone in front of Vasilevskiy. The former top pick deflected it up and into the back of the net. It was one of the few times the Lightning allowed a cross-seam pass of the type that plagued them in Game One.

Kaapo Kakko (Adam Fox, Filip Chytil) 2-1 Rangers

After a strong start, the Lightning just didn’t challenge Shesterkin enough, mustering just 14 shot attempts all period, with 7 finding the net. Stamkos did have a golden opportunity on a breakaway, but wasn’t able to tuck his attempt inside the post.

The second period started much like the first ended, with the Rangers dictating play. New York’s third line continued to give the Lightning problem, posting a 75% share of unblocked shots while they were on the ice through the first half of the game. Vasilevskiy continued to fight the puck, allowing one shot to trickle through him that Perry had to swat away from the goal line.

The Lightning did pick up their play as the period progressed, slowing the Rangers transition game and finally get some offense of their own going. The only problem, they weren’t able to get to the rebounds or keep the puck in the zone long enough to get New York to start chasing them around. They did manage 7 shots on net, but none that especially troubled Shesterkin as they recorded just one high-danger chance in the period.

With one period to go and a one-goal deficit to overcome, they Lightning needed to keep the puck in the Rangers zone, which they did for the first shift and a half. Unfortunately, a poor clearing attempt by Kucherov allowed New York to re-enter the Lightning zone easily and Mika Zibanajad ripped a shot past Vasilevskiy’s blocker to make it 3-1 and ignite the Madison Square Garden crowd.

Mika Zibanejad (Adam Fox, Chris Kreider) 3-1 Rangers

That would really be the only offense the Rangers generated in the period, but it would be enough. Finally playing with a little desperation late in the period, the Lightning hemmed the Rangers in and started moving the shot counter in their favor. New York took a page out of the Lightning’s book, though. They allowed Shesterkin to make the initial save and then prevented the Lightning from getting to any rebounds.

With time dwindling, Coach Cooper pulled Vasilevskiy with over three minutes to go. It worked as Nick Paul was able to get some room in front of Shesterkin and he slid the puck into the back of the net.

Nick Paul (Corey Perry, Nikita Kucherov) 3-2 Rangers

The Lightning would have one more flurry of offense with the extra skater as Stamkos had a rebound opportunity blocked right in front of the net. For the first time since the playoff series of which we don’t speak, the Lightning find themselves down 2-0 in a series. Game Three will be in Tampa on Sunday.