Tampa Bay Lightning: 10 Best Performances In Franchise History

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Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

7. Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Rangers

Lightning Shutout the New York Rangers to Become Eastern Conference Champions

Friday, May 29, 2015

Anyone who has been following the Tampa Bay Lightning over the course of the last few seasons knows just how important this series was, not only to the players, but the fans as well. The Tampa Bay Lightning defied all the odds, once again proving the naysayers wrong, and making it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Tampa Bay Lightning had a lot to prove heading into this game, and a lot of that heat surrounded one player in particular. Towards the end of the regular season last year things started to heat up between Tampa Bay Lightning captain Martin St. Louis and Lightning Vice President and General Manager Steve Yzerman. Eventually, things reached a boiling point and St. Louis requested to be traded to the New York Rangers; a request which Yzerman granted.

The Lightning had already carved out a successful path that found them with a spot in the post season. Unfortunately, with their team a little beaten up and one of the team’s most valuable players being traded away in the final months before the post season, the Tampa Bay Lightning found themselves exiting the playoffs post haste at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens.

A whole new year was upon the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the newest Lightning acquisition had helped the Bolts acquire a few new players who would certainly make an impact on the Lightning that season. Once again, the Tampa Bay Lightning found themselves in a comfortable position heading into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The biggest difference being the team had found the chemistry they lacked in the previous year, and their top netminder Ben Bishop was heading into the post season healthy and ready to play.

The Lightning would go head-to-head with the Detroit Red Wings in the first round. Moving on to the next round would be no easy task for the Bolts. In fact, the opening series went all the way to Game 7 where the Tampa Bay Lightning shut out the Red Wings and went on to the next step in their journey.

Next up for the Lightning was the Montreal Canadiens. After what the Canadiens did to the Bolts last season, it was imperative the Lightning put their best skate forward and give the Habs a taste of their own bitter medicine. While the Lightning may not had been able to pull out their brooms and dispose of the Habs in the same manner the Habs had done to them just one season ago, the Lightning were able to down the Habs in six games and continue on to the next round.

This is where things would get really interesting for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

As the Tampa Bay Lightning made their way into the Eastern Conference Finals, they would have to face off with an all-too-familiar foe, the New York Rangers. There were many people in the Bolts Nation who still harbored plenty of ill-will towards the former Lightning captain and would like nothing more than for the Lightning to wipe the table with the Rangers.

Unfortunately, this is not exactly how things played out. The Tampa Bay Lightning would lose their opening encounter with the Rangers and ultimately be pushed to the limit in the series. After the Rangers defeated the Lightning 7-3 in Game 6, the Lightning had to leave it all out on the ice in Game 7 if they wanted to stay on their journey towards Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Game 7 between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Rangers was probably one of the biggest nail-biters of the entire season. In a series like this, there is almost always a larger amount of penalties or at the very least a back and forth goal scoring session. Unfortunately, neither of those happened in this game.

The Tampa Bay Lightning would lay on the offense in the first two periods of play, outshooting the New York Rangers 19-11, but the Bolts simply could pierce the veil of Rangers veteran goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.

It wasn’t until the opening minutes of the third period that someone would finally break the ice and open up the scoring. Thankfully for the Tampa Bay Lightning, that player was Lightning center Alex Killorn. Killorn would play the puck up the boards and around in front of the net. Quickly, he would release a backhanded shot that would edge past Lundqvist and into the back of the net. The assists on the goal would go to defenseman Matt Carle and center Valtteri Filppula.

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It wasn’t until just after the halfway point in the period that Lightning would strike once again. This time, Lightning netminder Ben Bishop would score his third assist of the post season. For someone who never leaves the net, Bishop sure has a knack for offensive play.

Ben Bishop would collect the puck behind the net, and as the Rangers were quickly rushing towards him, Bishop would send the puck flying along the boards where it would collide with the stick of Ondrej Palat. Palat would deflect the puck over to his linemate Tyler Johnson, who would play the puck into the Rangers’ zone. The dynamic duo would race up the ice where Johnson would pass the puck across the ice back to Palat. Without hesitation, Palat takes the shot and the puck soars past Lundqvist to give the Lightning a 2-0 lead.

As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Tampa Bay Lightning fans back here in the Bolts Nation were on the edge of their seats. The realization was finally starting to set in that the Tampa Bay Lightning were about to play for the Stanley Cup. As the buzzer sounded, the expression on Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop’s face says everything you needed to know about this series.

The Tampa Bay Lightning piled on Bishop, not only celebrating their grand achievement as a team, but Bishop’s personal success in Game 7. Bishop became the third goaltender in NHL history to post two Game 7 shutouts in the same year. Preceding Bishop to this honor was Patrick Roy and Tim Thomas.

There are a lot of things that can be said about the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Stanley Cup journey last season, but there are a few things that will remain in our hearts forever. The first is putting to bed the animosity between Tampa Bay Lightning fans and their former captain. The second, and most important, aspect is the Lightning proved that no matter what your critics say, if you work hard and work together as a team there is nothing you can’t overcome.

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