Rangers shoot for 2-0 lead against Lightning
(SportsNetwork.com) - In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, the New York Rangers showed they still have what it takes to win the close ones. The Blueshirts hope to take a 2-0 lead on Monday when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning at Madison Square Garden.
New York grabbed the early lead in this best-of-seven set with a 2-1 win in Saturday's Game 1 at MSG. It marked the 15th straight time the Rangers were involved in a playoff game decided by only one goal. The NHL-record streak dates back to last spring's Stanley Cup Finals, which the Los Angeles Kings won in five games.
Also, nine of New York's 13 playoff games in 2015 have ended with a final score of 2-1 and the Rangers are 7-2 in those contests. New York is in the Eastern Conference finals for the third time in four seasons and is aiming for its first Stanley Cup title since 1994.
The Blueshirts earned Saturday's decision thanks to Dominic Moore being in the right place at the right time. Moore had the go-ahead goal deflect in off his right leg with 2:25 remaining in the third period, providing the difference in the Game 1 victory. Kevin Hayes flipped the puck into the crease where Moore skated into it and put the disc past a helpless Ben Bishop.
Derek Stepan scored the other goal for the Rangers, while Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves to record his fourth straight win. Lundqvist and the Rangers haven't lost since May 6, when it dropped Game 4 of the East semis against Washington. New York overcame a 3-1 deficit in that series to defeat the Capitals in seven games.
"I thought considering the fact that we had just finished a really emotional seven-game series, our guys came out really strong tonight, focused, and executed really well against a really quick team," said New York coach Alain Vigneault.
The Lightning, meanwhile, have lost three of their last four games. Tampa Bay downed Montreal in six games during the second round after taking a commanding 3-0 lead in the series.
"What got us through the Montreal series is not what we did tonight," said Lightning head coach Jon Cooper. "In some parts of the game, what got Montreal back in the series is what we did for big parts of the game tonight."
Ondrej Palat scored on a third-period power play for Tampa Bay, which was outshot 30-24 in the game and only had five shots on goal in the third period.
Bishop allowed two goals on 30 shots to suffer his first loss in nine career games against the Rangers.
Tampa Bay swept all three regular-season matchups with New York by a combined 15-7 margin, but Saturday's tilt was the first encounter between the teams since Dec. 1.
Lightning forward and former New York captain Ryan Callahan played in Game 1 after undergoing an emergency appendectomy earlier in the week, but another ex-Ranger, forward Brian Boyle, had to sit out the opener with an undisclosed injury. Boyle is questionable for Game 2.
Tampa Bay is in the Eastern Conference finals for the third time in franchise history and for the first time since 2011, when it lost to Boston. This series marks the first playoff encounter between the Bolts and Rangers.
Following tonight's game, this series will shift to Tampa for the next two encounters. Game 3 is scheduled for Wednesday night at Amalie Arena.