Buildings don’t win games.
Tampa Bay Leads the Series 3-2
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed one goal on 25 shots for the victory. He allowed a bit of a softie, but it was lockdown otherwise.
10:29 NYR Lindgren (2), (unassisted)
17:34 TB Sergachev (1), (unassisted)
18:10 TB Palat (8), (Sergachev, Hedman)
19:01 TB Hagel (2), (Kucherov)(EN)
Mikhail Sergachev and Vasilevskiy were the game’s first and second stars.
This was a classic road victory. Grind it out and get it done. The Rangers put all their psychological eggs in the basket of MSG being their fortress and signaled their intention to have a physical forecheck push tonight. Nothing really materialized the way anybody planned, and it quickly devolved into 60 minutes of defensive hand to hand combat.
The Lightning actually pretty much dominated the first five minutes of the game, so New York’s big physical push never fully materialized. They did have the better of the final 15 minutes of the frame, but the Lightning had two posts and a dissatisfactory 2-on-1 opportunity, so I wasn’t displeased with the period. The Second Period, overall, was probably the Lightning’s best period where they carried the bulk of the play, but Vasilevskiy gave up a bad angle goal against the run of play and things get a little scary because Shesterkin hasn’t cracked going the other way. The Lightning stayed on their horse though and got the equalizer thanks to traffic getting Shesterkin’s eyes for Sergachev’s equalizer, and through 40 it’s 1-1.
The critical Third Period was a very evenly played affair with significant swings in zone time and momentum on both ends. Ultimately, the Lightning get the winner on another long shot by Sergachev through a ton of traffic that goes in off of Palat’s legs, and it’s a 3-2 Tampa lead in the series. After the bulk of the puck luck working for the Rangers early in the series, maybe the biggest bit of puck luck thus far for Tampa Bay. These things have a way of evening themselves out.
By no means was it a perfect game. There were some moments where the defense and puck management could’ve been tighter. More to the point, before the game I really thought the Lightning would need to capitalize on their PP’s and odd man rushes when they came, and generally speaking those were not a strong point tonight at all. This series, in general, would’ve been a lot more academic if the Lightning had done better with the odd man rushes they’ve gotten. But, in the end, the refs swallowed their whistles going both ways in the First and Third Periods, which ultimately favors Tampa Bay I think given New York’s reliance on their PP, and the Lightning’s superiority at 5v5 eventually won the day. They had the slight advantage in expected goals at 5’s and they got the tight win that they deserved.
So, the Lightning have an opportunity at home in Game Six to punch their ticket to a third consecutive Stanley Cup Final. Standing in their way is a very young team that I think put a lot of faith that playing at MSG was somehow a cloak of invincibility. They’ve been bad on the road in these playoffs, they’re pretty tired having played 19 games in 38 days, a little bit banged up, and the Lightning are probably in their heads. It doesn’t escape notice that Lafreniere got disciplined by his elder as Steven Stamkos whipped the youngsters tale after the final buzzer tonight, which is somewhat symbolic of the state of the series at the moment. I thought if the Lightning won tonight the Rangers would fold mentally in Game Six. Will it happen? We shall see.