This is becoming routine for the New York Rangers. On Tuesday night, May 26, 2015, the Blueshirts were facing elimination as they went into Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida to face the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final. When it was over, the Rangers had earned a decisive 7-3 victory over the Bolts. In the process, the defending Eastern Conference Champions forced another Game 7. In the previous round, when they eliminated the Washington Capitals, they became the first team ever to overcome a 3-1 series deficit in back to back Stanley Cup Playoff years.
In this Game 6, all of the elements came together for New York. Forwards Derick Brassard and J.T. Miller, were huge. Brassard had a hat trick, while Miller scored once and had three assists. Brassard finished the game with a plus/minus rating of +5, while Miller was a +4. So dominant were the Rangers, that Rick Nash’s four-point night was not enough to warrant him being named one of the three stars of the game. The other steadying influence, was the one ultra-reliable constant of the New York squad, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. “Hank” made some spectacular saves, and most importantly was excellent in the 1st period. At the end of the opening 20 minutes, the Rangers held a 2-1 lead despite having been outshot 16-7. From there, momentum steadily tilted in the the favor of the Rangers.
The 2nd period was scoreless, but the 3rd period, the two teams combined for a total of seven goals. Unfortunately for the home team, five of those goals belonged to the visiting team. Seemingly in the blink of an eye, this very close game put out of reach. J.T. Miller, James Sheppard and Derick Brassard, scored within a span of 4:12 to put the Rangers up by a score of 5-1 with just under 13 minutes remaining. New York outshot Tampa Bay 16-10 in the final period and the three goals scored on their first eight shots, were enough to chase Bolts’ starting goalie Ben Bishop. After the third goal, backup goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy replaced Bishop and stopped six of seven shots. Brassard completed his hat trick, and finished off the scoring, with an empty-net goal with 1:41 remaining in the game.
This latest New York road victory comes on the heels of a 2-0 loss at home on Sunday, May 24. The winner-take-all Game 7 will be played on Friday night, May 29 at Madison Square Garden in New York. A game in which history is definitely on the side of the Rangers. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has a career mark of 6-1 in Game 7 contests. In said games, the stellar netminder has posted a 0.97 goals against average, .966 save percentage, and has one shutout. The future Hall of Famer will no doubt factor heavily when these two teams take the ice with a trip to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, on the line.
As for the Tampa Bay Lightning, they had the chance to end the series on their home ice, but were unsuccessful. Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop will now have to outplay Lunqvist in the biggest game of the year for both teams. Indeed, the Bolts are going to have to do it the hard way. Looking at the makeup of these two teams, and what is at stake, the upcoming Game 7 should be magnificent. The Lightning will need all hands on deck, if they are to overcome this Rangers team which have proven themselves to be a Game 7 juggernaut.
Final score: NYR 7, TBL 3. Final shots on goal: TBL 39, NYR 34. Power play: NYR 1-3, TBL 1-3. Three Stars of the game: #1) Derick Brassard – NYR, #2) Henrik Lundqvist – NYR, #3) J.T. Miller – NYR.