TAMPA, Fla. (AP) – Lightning goalie Ben Bishop admitted that he really doesn’t want to watch the tape of Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Who could blame him?
Derick Brassard had a hat trick and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 36 shots in another season-saving performance as the New York Rangers beat the Lightning 7-3 Tuesday night to force Game 7.
”I think both the team’s will go out there and try to play their game,” Bishop said about Game 7. ”They’re a good team. That’s why they won the Presidents’ Trophy.”
Brassard also had two assists for the Rangers, who evened the series 3-3 after being shut out in Game 5 at home. Keith Yandle, James Sheppard and J.T. Miller also scored on Bishop, who was pulled with New York leading 5-1 with just under 13 minutes remaining. Rick Nash added a power-play goal against Andrei Vasilevskiy and Brassard had an empty-netter with 1:41 to go to complete his hat trick.
”The third period we weren’t ourselves,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. ”No excuses for the third. We’re not going to sit here and sulk and feel sorry for ourselves. We have to win a game on the road to get to the Cup finals. We’re confident with our ability to win on the road.”
The decisive game is Friday night in New York, where Tampa Bay has won twice in this series.
”You want to finish it out when you can,” Lightning right wing Ryan Callahan said. ”You move past it. You have another opportunity. So we have to win one on the road.”
Lundqvist was outstanding before giving up a pair of third-period goals to Nikita Kucherov. New York improved to 4-0 in elimination games this postseason, and Lundqvist is 9-1 with his team’s season on the line since the start of last year’s playoffs.
”We capitalized early on our chances, and after that our goaltender was asked to make some big saves, which he did. But in the third period, with our season on the line, we probably played our best period of this series so far,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. ”We wanted a chance and we got a chance.”
Brassard got the Rangers off to a strong start with his first goal at 3:36 of the first period. He scored again at 7:14 of the third, chasing Bishop and finishing a stretch in which New York scored three times in just over four minutes to break the game open.
Nash finished with a goal and three assists. Yandle had a goal and an assist, and Miller finished with his first goal in 22 career playoffs games, plus three assists.
Callahan scored for Tampa Bay in the first period, but the Rangers did a good job of limiting opportunities for Stamkos, who only got off two shots after scoring in four consecutive games.
Stamkos had a goal and an assist, Bishop had 26 saves and the Lightning killed four penalties to take Game 5 in New York. Lundqvist played well enough in that game for the Rangers to win on most nights, however the inability to take advantage of power-play opportunities was the difference in the outcome.
Brassard scored on New York’s first shot of this game and Yandle’s second goal of the playoffs made it 2-0 at 15:30. That came less than a minute after the Rangers killed off a penalty with help from Lundqvist, who made a nice pad stop on Stamkos to deny the Lightning star from point-blank range.
Two former Rangers figured in the Lightning trimming the deficit to 2-1, with Callahan – traded to Tampa Bay in exchange for Martin St. Louis last season – skating in alone on Lundqvist after taking a pass from Anton Stralman, who left New York as a free agent last summer.
Callahan, playing in the conference finals after undergoing an emergency appendectomy that sidelined him for two games in the second round, flicked a well-placed shot into the left side of the net to get the Lightning, as well as a sellout crowd of 19,204, back in the game.
NOTES: Bishop was credited with his second assist of the playoffs on Callahan’s goal. … Stamkos was the first player with a goal in four straight games of a playoff series against the Rangers since Mario Lemieux scored in all five games of the 1996 conference semifinals. The four-game streak also tied a Lightning playoff record set by Martin St. Louis in and matched by Vincent Lecavalier in 2007. … Lightning C Cedric Paquette sat out with an undisclosed injury. … Tampa Bay C Valtteri Filppula was a minus-4.