Lightning beat Rangers in East Final, will face Avalanche for Stanley Cup

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Steven Stamkos has scored two goals and the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning is in the Stanley Cup Finals for the third straight season after defeating the New York Rangers 2-1 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday night.

Stamkos gave the Lightning a definitive lead in the third period, just 21 seconds after New York’s Frank Vatrano scored on a power play with the Lightning captain in the box for a save.

Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat set up the winning goal with 6 1/2 minutes left, the puck deflecting off Stamko’s knee into the net after Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin stopped the first shot. Midway through the second half, Stamkos also scored with a wrist shot from the top of the right circle.

Andrei Vasilevskiy finished the tournament with 20 saves for the Lightning, who won the series 4-2 – four straight wins after losing their first two games away – to reach the Stanley Cup Finals against the Colorado Avalanche.

The Lightning are the first team to make three straight Cup finals since Edmonton, from 1983-85. They are trying to become the first to win three straight championships since the New York Islanders won four straight from 1980-83.

Rangers, down 3-2 in the third consecutive round, were 5-0 in eliminations this postseason ahead of Saturday night.

The only teams to win six or more elimination games in a single postseason were the 1975 New York Islanders (eight), the 2014 Los Angeles Kings (seven), and the 2003 Minnesota Wild (six).

The Rangers lost three of their first four games before winning three straight elimination games to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in the opening round. They lost the first two on the road in Carolina before rebounding to oust the Hurricanes in seven games and reach the East Finals.

It was a different story on Saturday night as the Lightning limited New York’s scoring chances while overtaking the Rangers 31-21.

Vasilevskiy walked long distances without a test. He only had seven shots in the opening stages, six in the second and eight in the third.

Shesterkin, meanwhile, stopped 29 of 31 shots and made one big save after another to give New York a chance.

NOTES: The Lightning again played without forward Brayden Point, who has missed 10 games since suffering a lower body injury in Tampa Bay’s Game 7 win over Toronto in the first round. He was the NHL’s top scorer in the previous two postseasons. Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman was eliminated in the second half after apparently being elbowed in the head by New York’s Alexis Lafreniere. He returned at the start of the third period.

Game 1 takes place in Denver on Wednesday night. Watch it at 8:00 p.m. ET / 5:00 p.m. PT on Sportsnet.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.