Playoff Recaps

Lightning Strike 6 Times, Triplet Line Dominates in Overtime Win: Tampa Leads Series 2-1

2015 Eastern Conference Finals Game 3 Recap

*Editors Note: I delayed this post because I was watching Letterman. Thanks, Dave. -NL

By: Colby Kephart

Unknown-1The Tampa Bay Lightning triumphed the New York Rangers 6-5 in overtime in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The game was a wild shootout with both teams lighting up the scoreboard. The goalies weren’t the story in Game 3, but both teams can’t question the offense. Nikita Kucherov scored the winner just 3:33 into overtime. Tampa, for the first time in the series outshot the Rangers 40-28.

The first period saw a fast start to the game for the New York Rangers. Tampa didn’t help themselves out when Cedric Paquette took a roughing penalty only 26 seconds into the first period. Derick Brassard capitalized on the ensuing power play, scoring a power play goal assisted by Dan Boyle and Derek Stepan just over a minute into the first period.

Tampa had a chance to answer with a power play of their own after Dominic Moore took a cross checking penalty 3 minutes into the game. The Rangers managed to kill the penalty and the physical play picked up a notch with big hits from Steven Stamkos and Keith Yandle. A few minutes later, Jesper Fast turned over a pass from Chris Kreider, and exchanged it for a breakaway; scoring a beauty with a great deke past Ben Bishop.

The Rangers had reached their post-season goals-a-game average with 2 goals in the first period. But a minute after the Fast goal, Steven Stamkos and Alex Killorn got a 2 on 1 and Stamkos scored on the rebound off Killorn’s shot. This got the Lightning on the board and made the game 2-1 New York. The Rangers were behind in shots 12-9 heading into the second period.

The second period saw goals on goals on goals and the continuation of lack of discipline with both teams. The period started without Tampa’s, Matt Carle, who was not on the bench and unable to return. Then Tampa took a too many men on the ice penalty just 2 minutes into the period. Tampa managed to kill off the penalty, but found themselves shorthanded again just 4 minutes later. The penalty kill for Tampa got it done again, killing off another New York Rangers power play.

New York then took a penalty about halfway through the period- Derick Brassard for hooking- but didn’t have the same luck as Tampa on the penalty kill as Ondrej Palat scored just seconds after the penalty was taken. A few minutes later Brenden Morrow (Tripping) and Keith Yandle (holding) took coincidental minors resulting in 4 on 4 hockey for 2 minutes. Tampa made good use of fewer men on the ice with the playoff leading scorer Tyler Johnson scoring again.

This gave Johnson 4 goals in just 3 games of the Eastern Conference Finals and tied a franchise record for goals in the post season (12). Tampa doubled their lead a few minutes later with Alex Killorn scoring a beautiful goal, as he stalled and moved the puck through a few defenders before releasing a shot past Henrik Lundqvist. Tampa had scored 3 goals on just 10 shots at this point of the game.

New York Rangers LogoJust when it looked like Tampa would dominate the game, Jesper Fast scored his second goal of the game on a rebound off of Kevin Klein’s shot. This was one of the few times the Rangers have scored more than 2 goals in the playoffs this year. 3 goals were scored in a little over a 7-minute span in the second period. Tampa was up one after two and still outshot the Rangers 24- 16.

The third period started similar to the first period. Andrej Sustr took a tripping penalty 2 minutes into the period. New York figured out their power-play issues when Ryan McDonagh’s one timer beat Bishop. This was the Rangers second power-play goal of the game, with assists came from Kevin Hayes and Keith Yandle. The game then slowed down to 5 on 5 hockey for a decent amount of time. With 5 minutes remaining in the period Ondrej Palat scored his second of the night with a great effort to beat Lundqvist.

At this point it looked like Tampa would take Game 3, but then the Rangers got ready to pull Lundqvist with 2 minutes left and found a way to answer. Keith Yandle drove a shot from the point deflected by JT Miller and Dan Boyle got his stick on the puck and forced it to the back of the net sending this game into overtime. At the end of regulation, Tampa outshot the Rangers 35-22. Tampa was also outhitting the Rangers 37-27.

Overtime saw an explosive start by Tampa as they were skating well. The first chance came from JT Brown, who was denied by Lundqvist just 2 minutes into the period. Then the final triplet scored the game winner. Nikita Kucherov sniped one from the slot and beat Lundqvist from distance.

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The “Triplet Line” of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov made up for 4 of the 6 goals scored by Tampa. These 3 men were together for most of the season and played this well for most of it. In Game 3 the Triplets had a 7 point night; Palat had two goals and an assist, Johnson had a goal and an assist, and Nikita Kucherov had the most important goal and an assist.

This game didn’t fit the New York Rangers style of play, because they don’t score a lot of goals. If Games 4 and 5 are like this you might see the Rangers going out in 5 games. The Rangers need the goaltender battles and the close game to force this series deeper and stand a chance to make the Stanley Cup Finals. Game 4 will be Friday May 22nd at 8 pm still in Tampa, Florida. Coverage will be on NBCSN.