An overtime goal from Nikita Kucherov helped give the Tampa Bay Lightning a wild 6-5 win over the New York Rangers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final. Tampa now leads the series 2-1 with Game 4 on Friday at Amalie Arena.
As they’ve done a number of times this postseason, the Rangers struck first and early as Derick Brassard fired home a power play goal after 62 seconds. Jesper Fast would double the lead midway through the first period after a Matt Carle/Derek Stepan collision in the neutral zone opened up space for the forward to come in all alone on Ben Bishop:
Carle wouldn’t return to the game after suffering what the Lightning described as an upper-body injury.
Despite the 2-0 deficit, Tampa would respond in a big way by scoring the game’s next four goals, including three in a span of 6:46 in the second period. Tyler Johnson’s 12th of the postseason gave the Lightning a 3-2 lead and tied him with Brad Richards and Ruslan Fedotenko for most playoff goals in a season in franchise history:
Fast would notch his second of the night 29 seconds after Alex Killorn would tally the Lightning’s fourth goal of the game to make it a 4-3 game. Early in the third period, New York would even the score on a Ryan McDonagh power play goal. But Tampa would respond 12 minutes later as Palat put home his second for a 5-4 lead.
Late in the third period, an Anton Stralman icing forced a tired Tampa unit to remain on for a defensive zone face-off. Head coach Jon Cooper decided against using his timeout, and after the Rangers won the draw, Dan Boyle pounced on a rebound in front to tie the game with 1:56 remaining to force overtime.
Nikita Kucherov, whose six playoff goals entering Wednesday night all came in Round 2, ended things 3:33 into the extra frame when his wrist shot beat Henrik Lundqvist for the 6-5 victory.
“We knew that this is our game and we didn’t want to lose it in front of our fans,” Kucherov told NBCSN afterward. “So we came out hard and I’m glad we scored.”
With four goals between Tampa’s “Triplets” line of Johnson, Palat and Kucherov, the trio have now scored 25 of the Lightning’s 47 postseason goals. In the last two games, they've combined for seven goals and 14 points.
Game 2 was the fifth time this season that the Lightning scored at least four goals against Lundqvist, all Tampa victories. Despite the netminder's heroics through the opening two rounds, New York hasn't faced an offense like Tampa's yet and now they need to figure out how to slow down a team with 47 goals in 16 playoff games.
“We’re the top-scoring team in the league for a reason," Stamkos told NBCSN. "We have so much skill up front. I think you saw that tonight. Scoring six goals, I think this is the first time I’ve seen a 6-5 game in the playoffs. But guys found a way tonight and the big boys came to play.
"That line (the “Triplets”) was great again. Our line was able to contribute, and I think at the end of the day everyone’s happy to get this win and get some rest tomorrow.”
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