Backed by a hat trick from Tyler Johnson and 35 saves from Ben Bishop, the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the New York Rangers, 6-2, in Madison Square Garden on Monday to even the Eastern Conference Finals at one game apiece.
“What a performance by Ben Bishop, first and foremost,” NHL on NBC lead analyst Eddie Olczyk said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “He made some incredible saves – some timely saves – when the game was 3-2 after Johnson had his hat trick. (Rick) Nash has a short-handed chance, Bishop makes the save, and then Jesper Fast has a great chance and Bishop sticks the left pad out and keeps it 3-2. And then about, what, 25, 30 second later, Killorn gets a great pass from Victor Hedman and makes it 4-2.
“There are a lot of things that happened, but you think about the swing there in a game that’s in the third period like that,” Olczyk continued. “If you get a save and you cash in like that, that usually sends negativity throughout the building. I think it certainly did. It was a terrific performance by Bisop and by Johnson. The Rangers had their chances. Just not able to capitalize.”
The Rangers actually out-shot the Lightning 37-26 but struggled to find the back of the net. That’s been a theme in the playoffs, as New York has scored two goals or fewer in 11 of their 14 playoff games.
The Tampa Bay defense had something to do with that Monday. They gave up a lot of shots, but they played as a unit.
“I really thought the key to this game would be getting improved play from the Tampa defense,” Olczyk said. “(Anton) Stralman was outstanding in Game 1 and everybody else was average or below average. Some guys really had a tough game, but I thought as a defensive core, they really brought the game tonight and made a difference – not only by the pass by Hedman, but they were just sharper. They played better, they were a lot more confident, they were much more aggressive. Look, they gave up their chances. There’s no doubt. They gave up chances and Bishop was there. It was a crazy game. I don’t think it was a 6-2 game, but if you give a team like Tampa opportunities like that and they cash in, you’re going to make life awfully difficult. And again, the Rangers can’t get past two goals and that’s been an issue all playoffs. If you give Tampa chances, they’re going to be able to score.”
The Lightning led just 3-2 through two periods but got three third-period goals, including two from Alex Killorn. Steven Stamkos’ power-play goal put the game out of reach at 5-2 with 13:32 remaining, while Killorn capped the scoring with a power-play goal of his own in the final three minutes.
The series now shifts to Tampa Bay for Games 3 and 4 on Wednesday and Friday, respectively. Both games start at 8 p.m. ET.