(SportsNetwork.com) - The Tampa Bay Lightning will try to become the first team to earn a spot in the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals when they host the New York Rangers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals Tuesday night at Amalie Arena.
The Lightning made their only trip to the Cup Finals in 2004, when they defeated Calgary in a thrilling seven-game battle, and with a 3-2 lead in this series they are one win away from getting back to the final round. However, before returning to hockey's ultimate stage Tampa will have to finish off a Rangers team which has been extremely difficult to eliminate in recent postseasons.
New York has won 14 of the last 17 playoff games in which they have faced elimination, dating back to Game 6 of the Eastern conference quarterfinals in 2012 against Ottawa. New York has won eight of nine playoff games when facing elimination since the start of last spring's playoffs.
The Rangers also have posted an 8-1 record in Game 6 or 7 since the beginning of the 2013 playoffs and have taken three of the last five playoff series in which they trailed three games to two following a loss in Game 5.
Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has been the key reason the Rangers have been so difficult to get rid of in the postseason. The Swedish star has posted a 14-3 record, 1.39 goals against average and a .956 save percentage in his last 17 games in which his club has faced elimination. In his last six appearances in either Game 6 or 7 of a playoff series, Lundqvist has posted a 6-0 record, along with a 1.13 GAA.
If Lundqvist and the Rangers can stay alive with a victory tonight, they will host a decisive Game 7 on Friday.
New York is 4-3 as the road team in this postseason, while the Lightning are 5-4 as the hosts.
The last time these clubs faced off in Tampa was Friday night in Game 4, when the Rangers routed the Bolts 5-1 to even the series at two games apiece. However, after allowing 10 goals over the previous two games, Ben Bishop bounced back with a stellar performance in net to back the Lightning's defensive revival during Sunday's pivotal Game 5.
Bishop made 26 saves for his second career playoff shutout and Steven Stamkos continued to display his renewed scoring touch to guide the Lightning to a 2-0 victory over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Stamkos tied a franchise postseason record by scoring in a fourth straight game and also assisted on Valtteri Filppula's goal for the Lightning, who grabbed the 3-2 series lead by killing off all four penalties and blocking 24 shots.
"We weren't happy with the last couple games with the amount of scoring chances we were giving up," said Bishop. "We looked at it and we talked about it. I thought we did a better job tonight. Guys (were) coming up huge with blocked shots at the end there."
Lundqvist, meanwhile, stopped 20 shots for the Rangers, who were unable to build upon their thrashing of the Lightning on Friday.
New York was shut out for the second time this postseason. The Blueshirts also failed to score a goal in Game 3 of their second-round series against the Washington Capitals. The Rangers, of course, overcame a 3-1 deficit in that conference semifinal matchup to earn their third trip to the East finals in four seasons.
The top-seeded Rangers are attempting to get back to the Cup Finals after losing in five games to Los Angeles with the title on the line last spring.
Tampa grabbed a 1-0 lead on Sunday when Filppula scored his third goal of the postseason with 6:31 remaining in the middle period. Stamkos took a lead pass from Anton Stralman through the neutral zone and skated up the right wing boards. Filppula received a pass from Stamkos and beat Lundqvist's blocker with a far-side wrister from the right circle.
"They gradually became more aggressive," Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh said. "The last couple games we've been able to make that play, anticipate our next play and kind of break that pressure. Tonight we didn't get as many of those looks, as many of those opportunities."
The Lightning improved to 8-0 when scoring first this postseason.
Tampa Bay continued its strong special teams play with a power-play tally. Nikita Kucherov faked a shot at the left circle and hit a streaking Ondrej Palat with a cross-ice pass. Stamkos finished off the tic-tac-toe play by tapping in Palat's feed from atop the crease for a 2-0 lead with 1:38 to play in the middle frame.
Stamkos, who failed to hit the net in his first eight games of these playoffs, has six markers over his last seven games and seven goals in his past 10 trips to the ice. His seven goals this spring mark the most he has scored in a single postseason.
"Everything has kind of accumulated to this point right now," Stamkos said. "But when you have confidence, you try to keep it as long as you can, because it is tough to get at this time of the year."
The Lightning hope to have defenseman Braydon Coburn in the lineup tonight after he missed the last two periods of Sunday's game due to an illness. On Monday, Tampa coach Jon Cooper said Coburn, who became physically ill on the bench in Game 5, was felling better and could return tonight.