Tampa Bay Lightning Takes 2-1 Series Lead In Game 3 OT Win

New York Rangers
Tampa Bay Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning takes a 2-1 series lead over the New York Rangers with a 6-5 overtime win in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Tampa Bay Lightning took fans on an epic rollercoaster ride tonight as they charged into the Amalie Arena to take on the New York Rangers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, and when the final buzzer sounded it would be the Boys in Blue who would come out on top in tonight’s overtime thriller.

The Lightning hit the ice tonight with a lot of the same fire that they exhibited in Game 2. Unfortunately, that fire would not be enough to get the Lightning on the board first. Cedric Paquette would be sent to the box just 26 second into the game, which opened the door for the New York Rangers to strike on the Power Play.

It wasn’t long until Rangers center Derick Brassard would find himself in a favorable position affording him the opportunity to fire off a slapshot that found its way past Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop and into the back of the net giving the Rangers the early lead.

Just a few minutes later, the Lightning would get their own opportunity on the Power Play. Former Lightning center Dominic Moore made a pretty dangerous cross check from behind to Lightning right wing J.T. Brown that would send him flying into the boards. Fortunately, Brown was not injured on the play.

Unfortunately for the Lightning, they would not be able to convert on their first Power Play opportunity. They seemed to fall back into one of their most frustrating bad habits; overpassing the puck.

Alex Killorn took an amazing shot at Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist, but was absolutely robbed on the attempt. As the puck was played back down the ice, Lightning defenseman Matt Carle and Rangers center Derek Stepan came together rather hard at center ice. Both players seemed pretty shaken up by the collision.

Unfortunately for the Lightning, while some people’s attention was trained in on center ice Rangers right wing Jesper Fast brought the puck in front of the net and right past Bishop to give the Rangers a two-goal lead.

Some people here in the Bolts Nation went into panic mode right around the time of the second Rangers goal, but we would like to say that we concur with what Tampa Bay Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper told Pierre McGuire during the intermission. Cooper essentially told Pierre that the Rangers were capitalizing on their chances, but that the Lightning would be just fine.

Well…it turns out that Cooper may just have known what he was talking about. It was just around one minute later when Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos would steal the puck right off the stick of Rangers defenseman Dan Boyle and bring the puck back into the Rangers zone.

Stamkos would pass the puck off to Alex Killorn who would take a solid shot towards the net which was summarily deflected by Lundqvist. Unfortunately for the Rangers, Steven Stamkos did one of the most important things that we referenced in our game preview; digging for rebounds.

Just like that, Stamkos’ shot was loose and the puck was in the back of the net. This brought the Lightning back to only a one-goal deficit at just over the halfway point in the first period.

Both teams would battle back and forth for the remainder of the period, but it would be to no avail. When the buzzer would sound to end the period, the Tampa Bay Lightning would trailer the New York Rangers 2-1.

The Tampa Bay Lightning would return to the ice for the second period minus one defenseman. Apparently, Matt Carle did not return to the Lightning bench for the start of the second period. At this point in the game there has been no announcement as to any apparent injury, so we can always hold out hope.

Until then, Coach Cooper would push forward with 6 defensemen.

Once the Lightning hit the ice, the momentum seemed to be in the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Alex Killorn made another couple really good runs at Lundqvist, but they just couldn’t penetrate Lundqvist’s bubble. I wasn’t long until you could feel the momentum rushing towards the other side of the ice.

The New York Rangers would spend the next couple of minutes in the Lightning zone sending a barrage of offense in the direction of Ben Bishop. The only upside to this is that Bishop was able to keep the puck out of the net.

The Lightning would fall back into another one of their bad habits, falling face first into penalty traps. The first penalty would come at the hands of Victor Hedman when he is popped for Too Many Men on the Ice. Just a few moments later, Nikita Nesterov would be sent to the box for Interference on James Sheppard.

Thankfully, there is an upside to this as well. The Tampa Bay Lightning was able to kill of both penalties and prevent the Rangers from capitalizing and extending their lead. See…there is usually a silver lining somewhere in the mix.

The Lightning was dealt a bit of a blow at just around the halfway point in the period when the team announced that Matt Carle had been diagnosed with an undisclosed injury and would not be returning to tonight’s game. The Bolts would have to plug on with 6 defensemen for the rest of the game.

It wasn’t long after the announcement of Carle’s injury that the Lightning seemed to wake up and really get back into the game. Just after the halfway point in the game, the Lightning would get another shot at the Power Play as Brassard is sent to the box for hooking Victor Hedman. Ondrej Palat would use this opportunity to tie the game up.

Apparently, this was the kick in the behind the Lightning needed to get moving and really start to create chances for themselves. Under three minutes later, it would be Palat’s partner-in-crime Tyler Johnson who would get on the board next. We would be remiss in our duties if we didn’t inform you that in addition to coring his 12th goal of the post season, Johnson also leads the NHL in both goals (12) and points (18).

As we approach the end of the period, we got a look at what could go down as one of the most beautiful exchanges in the series, and possibly even the post season. At around the 17 minute mark, Alex Killorn makes his way into the zone. Killer hesitates for just a moment, distracting the defensemen.

Stamkos makes his way in front of the net. It almost looks as if Killorn is about to pass the puck to Stamkos in front of the net, but at the very last minute Stamkos leaps into the air as the puck sails under him and into the back of the net. As we said, this was one of the most beautiful and skilled exchanges we have seen in a while.

It was then that Killorn unleashed the best warrior-like scream we have ever seen.

Unfortunately, the celebration would come to a rather abrupt end. Just seconds later, the Rangers would get one of those goals back with the second goal of the night from Jesper Fast. It seems the Lightning are not the only ones with bright young talent on the roster this season.

All in all, the second period was one of the best we have seen from the Lightning thus far. For a while there is seemed as if the Lightning were putting on a class of how to overcome a two-goal deficit and retake the lead. With the exception of the goal by Fast in the last minutes of the period, this is exactly what it was.

If the Lightning can bring this kind of intensity to the third period of play, they will be an unstoppable force.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Lightning game if there wasn’t at least a little bit of adversity in the opening minutes of the period. Just over a minute and a half into the third period, Lightning defenseman Andrej Sustr would find himself headed to the box for 2 minutes for tripping Fast.

This opened the door for the Rangers to make a move with the man-advantage. Unfortunately for the Lightning, the Rangers came crashing through the open door and slammed it in their face with a goal from Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh. This would tie this game up once again.

The Rangers would quickly put quite a bit of pressure on Bishop in front of the net, but the Lightning were thus far able to keep the Rangers out of the net. In doing so, Stamkos makes a very good run at Lundqvist, but he is summarily turned away by the 33 year old netminder.

McDonagh’s goal in the opening minutes of the period would be the only goal we would see from either team for a good majority of the third period. Both the Lightning and the Rangers would make some good runs at the opposing netminders, but nothing seemed to pierce the protection.

That is…until the Triplets decided to strike once again. Palat and Johnson would make their down the ice to the awaiting Lundqvist. Johnson would look for positioning, but it is Palat who would ultimately sink the puck in the back of the net giving the Lightning the lead heading into the final five minutes of the game.

All the Lightning need to do at this point is hold on; or score what is lovingly known as an insurance goal. Unfortunately, neither one of those would come to pass. With just 1:56 left in the game, defenseman Dan Boyle was able to put the puck past Bishop with assists from J.T. Miller and Keith Yandle, tying this game for the third time tonight.

The Tampa Bay Lightning had an opportunity in the final minutes of the period with an offensive zone faceoff, but Paquette wasn’t able to get his stick on the puck and it was quickly cleared out of the zone by the Rangers. At the sound of the buzzer, Game 3 would be headed to overtime.

The intensity was definitely there when the puck dropped in overtime. The Tampa Bay Lightning were forced to defend in front of Bishop as the Rangers pushed ahead. Palat got a little too much speed behind him and collided with Johnson in front of the net, sending Johnson crashing into the goal post.

It looked for a moment as if Johnson was pretty shaken up, but thankfully, Johnson made it to his feet and back to the Lightning bench. If there is any player that we do not want injured as we make our way through the Eastern Conference Finals, it is Tyler Johnson.

A couple minutes later, J.T.  Brown made a magnificent run towards the net, but was simply robbed by Lundqvist. Thankfully, the Lightning would not make their fans sit on the edge of their seats for too long. At 3:33 Nikita Kucherov would put this game to bed with a beautiful wrister that went right past Lundqvist.

As the goal horn resounded at the Amalie Arena, the Tampa Bay Lightning would pull ahead in the series and take a 2-1 lead over the New York Rangers.

Both the Lightning and the Rangers have found their offensive swagger and it is going to become increasingly important for the defense to be on their game if they want to come out on top.

Now that Game 3 is in the rearview window, the Tampa Bay Lightning will have one day to regroup before they head back into the Amalie Arena again on Friday night for Game 4. As always, the Lightning will need their Thunder once again come Friday night. Are you ready to Be The Thunder once again?

What was your favorite part of tonight’s game? What do you think the Lightning can take away from tonight’s encounter and use to help them in Game 4? Let us know what you think in the comments below.