2015 Eastern Conference Finals Game 7 Recap
By: Colby Kephart
A Game 7 with emotions running high resulted with the Tampa Bay Lightning beating the New York Rangers 2-0. Alex Killorn scored the first of Tampa’s two 3rd period goals (his 7th of the playoffs), while the second came late in the period from Ondrej Palat.
Ben Bishop recorded his second shutout at Madison Square Garden in this series, stopping all 22 shots faced on Friday night. He also became the third goalie in NHL history to post two Game 7 shutouts in the same postseason, joining Patrick Roy (2002) and Tim Thomas (2011).
A high tempo, high energy, first period saw end-to-end action that ended scoreless. Both teams had their adrenaline pumping as the game experienced craziness with the fans screaming their heads off- right in tune with the game. The New York Rangers took a page out of Tampa’s book as they dressed 11 forwards and 7 defenseman (or so everyone thought).
Rangers captain, Ryan McDonagh, was experiencing some issues and had actually gone back to the locker room before the game began. McDonagh returned shortly into the 1st period. It was later revealed that he was playing with a broken foot for the last few games. The captain was usually carrying a heavy load on the blueline for the Rangers, but finished with a measly 3 shifts and 1:47 of ice time in Game 7.
Bishop and Henrik Lundqvist looked prepared for this big game, as they kept shot after shot out of their net. New York had a few quality scoring chances, despite having 5 shots on goal. The Lightning had more chances with 9 shots on goal. One opportunity forced a big save by Lundqvist as the shot deflected off of a New York stick, off Lundqvist’s glove, and over the net.
The goaltender battle continued during the second period as Tampa started with quick chances. Ryan Callahan gathered the puck on a rebound and threw it towards the net, but Lundqvist got his pad on it. The Lightning became undisciplined and unwound for a short period of time when Brenden Morrow took a questionable call for hooking at 3:41 of the 2nd period.
Ryan McDonagh got some time on the power play and generated a chance for his team off his hard shot, but Bishop was there to make the save and Tampa quickly cleared it towards the corner.
Tampa found themselves shorthanded again about four minutes later with a bench minor for too many men on the ice at 7:46 of the 2nd period. The Lightning’s penalty kill unit proved their worth and only allowed a few chances, including one from Keith Yandle as he skated down from the point and received a backdoor pass, but shot the puck wide of the net.
The last 5 minutes of the period saw both teams generating multiple chances as the action went all over the rink. The Lightning established the zone, giving Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov chances that Lundqvist could only shoulder away. Jason Garrison also had a great chance at 16:04, when he received a backdoor pass, only to be denied, once more, by Lundqvist.
McDonagh continued to get more minutes as he battled through playing with a broken foot. He had a little over ten minutes of ice time by the end of forty minutes of play, adding almost 9 full minutes in the period. At the end of two, the Lightning outshot the Rangers 19-11. Both teams were throwing their weight around pretty equally with New York slightly outhitting Tampa 22-21. Faceoff wins were one sided in favor of the Rangers 26-14.
The third period saw a fast start for the Tampa Bay Lightning, who scored 1:54 into the 3rd period. Alex Killorn snuck his backhand, five hole, between the pads of Lundqvist as the puck trickled across the line. The Rangers tried to answer by throwing pucks towards the net and hoping for rebounds, yet Ben Bishop remained strong with great rebound control and denied second and third chances. He finally gave up a few chances at the halfway point when a mad scramble ensued, but managed to freeze the puck.
Tampa managed to double their lead at 11:17 of the period when a wrist shot from Ondrej Palat beat Lundqvist top shelf. Palat’s goal was assisted by Tyler Johnson and Ben Bishop. Momentum began swinging out of New York’s favor as the reality of being down 2-0 in Game 7 with not much time remaining- potentially in their season- set in.
Ben Bishop made numerous saves, stopping everything thrown at him. New York was forced to pull Lundqvist with 3:44 remaining in the game for an extra attacker. Bishop, once again, remained strong and withheld the Rangers from a goal on the scoreboard.
Henrik Lundqvist in what became his final game of the season, brushed aside 23 of the 25 total shots on goal by the Lightning. Both teams shook hands with ease and tradition, as is long established in sportsmanship, after the long seven game battle for the Eastern Conference championship. Former Rangers captain, Ryan Callahan, shook hands with the man who he was traded for, Martin St. Louis, with Callahan moving on and St. Louis, for the second year in a row with the Rangers, failing to capture one more Cup.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are moving on to the Stanley Cup Finals for their second time in franchise history. The last time Tampa made the Stanley Cup Finals, in 2004, they won the Cup. The Stanley Cup Finals start June 3rd at 8 PM with national broadcast information to be released soon. The Lightning will face the winner of Saturday night’s Western Conference Finals Game 7 between the Anaheim Ducks and the Chicago Blackhawks.