Playoff Recaps

Bolts Strike Twice and Beat Rangers, Stamkos Leads the Way to a 3-2 Series Lead

2015 Eastern Conference Finals Game 5 Recap

By: Colby Kephart

Unknown-1The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the New York Rangers 2-0 in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals Sunday night at Madison Square Garden. The first line from Tampa stepped up with Steven Stamkos and Valtteri Filppula each scoring a goal in the second period. Ben Bishop and Tampa’s defense found a way to keep the Ranger’s off the board entirely, earning Bishop the shutout.

The first period saw few chances for both teams, along with a lot of scrappy play and board battles. Tampa had a quick chance in the first minute of the game, when Tyler Johnson got a shot wide of the net. The Rangers also had a few chances on a 2 on 1 breakout led by Martin St. Louis but it was stopped by Bishop. Nearly 4 minutes into the period Tampa took the game’s first penalty, as the Lightning were called for too many men on the ice.

On the ensuing power play, quick passing from the Rangers gave Chris Kreider a great chance that hit the side of the net. About 3 minutes later the Rangers took their first penalty, when Marc Staal was penalized for interference. New York held their blue line and didn’t give up any major chances while on the penalty kill.

The game then transitioned to many battles along the boards and a lot of grind-it-out play. New York held Tampa in their defensive zone for a decent amount of the period. Tampa was struggling to get their offense going and frustration took over as Johnson took a slashing penalty with 5 minutes remaining in the period. The Lightning then killed off the penalty kill with ease. Offense was a rarity during the period as the Rangers only had 6 shots on goal and Tampa had a measly 4 shots on goal through 20 minutes of play.

New York Rangers LogoTampa got yet another quick start to the second period, similar to the first period. This time it was Stamkos alone in front, after a turnover, firing a wrist shot that was matched by Lundqvist’s glove hand. Riding the momentum of the save, the Rangers had an upper hand on the game-playing along the boards, behind the net. This made a terrific chance for Derek Stepan, as he sent a one-timer on Bishop that was denied.

Tampa then took a series of penalties; the first one came at 7:19 of the period for a high stick from Jason Garrison on Rick Nash. The penalty kill for Tampa was unmatched by the New York’s power play unit and actually created a chance for Alex Killorn on a 2 on 1 heading the other way, but was denied by Lundqvist. Tampa killed off Garrison’s penalty, but found themselves shorthanded again a minute later as Andrej Sustr tripped Carl Hagelin. Similar to the last penalty kill, the Lightning made the kill and only allowed Rick Nash a chance that was thwarted by Bishop.

Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images
Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images

Finally, Valtteri Filppula scored the game’s first goal as Stamkos received a stretch pass from Anton Stralman, who then passed it to Filppula in the slot, putting it past Lundqvist with six minutes remaining in the period. Tampa had found their offense and began to establish the zone and eventually was able to draw a penalty, that sent Marc Staal to the box for tripping with 3 minutes remaining in period.

The Lightning didn’t pass up the opportunity to double their lead, as Steven Stamkos rocketed home his seventh of the playoff, with help from Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat on the power play. Ben Bishop had stopped all 16 of New York’s shots to this point and Lundqvist’s numbers weren’t looking as good with 13 saves on 15 shots.

The third period witnessed a strong defensive performance by the Lightning and saw the Rangers try everything to get their offense going. Even though the Rangers were on the attack from the opening faceoff of the period, Tampa managed to pressure in their offensive zone and brought a penalty on New York. Chris Kreider went to the sin bin for a delay of game penalty. Tampa couldn’t amount anything on the power play and the Rangers killed it off.

New York juggled their lines in hopes of seeing a result and had a line consisting of Nash, Stepan, and Kreider that created a great chance after Nash spun around a pass to Stepan for the one timer, but Ben Bishop was there to make the save. New York was dominating play and it was tilted in their favor, but couldn’t beat Bishop try after try.

The Rangers pulled Lundqvist with 3 minutes left and a minute later Palat and Brassard took matching minor penalties for slashing. The clock counted down to zero and gave Ben Bishop another shut out in this year’s playoffs. Bishop stopped all 26 shots he faced, while Lundqvist allowed 2 goals on 22 shots.

Tampa’s defense was the story of Game 5, as they protected Bishop and preserved the shutout. The Lightning’s penalty kill was also strong in Game 5, forcing the Rangers empty handed on the man advantage- New York wound up 0 for 4 on power plays. The first line continued to produce with both Stamkos and Filppula scoring goals. The Rangers got the type of game they wanted with a low scoring game, but couldn’t find a way past Ben Bishop. The series is now 3-2 in favor of Tampa, with Game 6 back in Tampa, Florida at Amalie Arena on May 26th at 8 pm with televised coverage on NBCSN.

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