NEW YORK (AP) — Philippe Chytil scored twice in the second period and the New York Rangers routed the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning 6-2 Wednesday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals .
Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin and Free fire each had a goal and an assist, Chris Kreider also scored and Alexis Lafrenière and Adam Fox each had two assists to help New York win its seventh straight playoff game at home, a franchise record. Igor Shesterkin stopped 37 shots to improve to 8-3 in the last 11 games.
Steven Stamkos had a goal and an assist, and Ondrej Palat also scored for Tampa Bay, which had won six straight and was playing for the first time since completing its second-round sweep of Florida on May 23. Andrei Vasilevskywho allowed just three goals in four games against the Panthers, made 28 saves.
Game 2 takes place Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
The score was tied 1-1 after 20 minutes before Rangers took control in the second period. They scored three times while beating the Lightning 17-10.
Vatrano gave Rangers a 2-1 lead at 7:50 of the second as he pounced on a loose puck near the left circle and fired a shot past Vasilevskiy high on the blocker side for his fourth of the playoffs.
Just 25 seconds later, Tampa Bay Victor Hedman shot the goal post, and seconds later Rangers drove the puck the other way and Vasilevskiy made a sliding save to deny Ryan Strome.
Palat tied the game at 8:32, fending off a Stamkos shot rebound past Shesterkin for his fifth of the playoffs.
Rangers regained the lead 1:19 later. Kaapo Kakko had the puck behind the Lightning net, came out to the right of the goaltender and sent a pass to Chytil in the crease which he fired past Vasilevskiy. It was the third game in a row that Chytil scored.
Chytil made it 4-2 with 4:17 to go after Rangers extended possession in the attacking zone. He got a cross pass from K’Andre Miller and fired one-shot past Vasilevskiy for his seventh in the playoffs — and fifth in three games.
Panarin got a cross pass from Andrew Copp in the left circle on a 2-on-1 and fired past Vasilevskiy to give Rangers a three-goal lead 30 seconds into the third. It was his fifth of the playoffs.
Less than two minutes later, Shesterkin made two big saves on a Lightning power play, stopping a slap shot from Nikita Kucherov and and followed by Corey Perry. He then remained on the ice for several minutes after being hit in the head by Stamkos after the second stoppage.
Zibanejad made it 6-2 at 6:06 after extended time in the offensive zone on the power play, firing a one-timer from the left circle on a Panarin pass for his eighth of the playoffs. It gave the Rangers a man-advantaged goal for the sixth straight game, tying a franchise record in the playoffs, previously set in 1986 and 1990.
With much of the attention in this goalie-centric series, the Madison Square Garden crowd began chanting “I-gor’s better-ter!” I-gor is better! midway through the third period.
Tempers flared with less than two minutes to go as several skirmishes broke out in one corner. Six players received penalties, putting Tampa Bay on the power play to end the game.
Kreider put Rangers on the scoreboard 1:11 into the game on the game’s first shot on goal. Zibanejad got a long overhead pass from Vatrano down the right side on a 2-on-1, sent a pass to Kreider, who fired it past Vasilevskiy from the inside edge of the left circle for his ninth goal of the playoffs.
Shesterkin then stopped a shot slapped by John Rutta at 2:09 on the Lightning’s first shot.
Stamkos tied the game at 7:19 as he got a pass from Rutta into the high slot and fired a slap shot past Shesterkin just under the crossbar for his fifth of the playoffs.
Shesterkin denied two tries close to Stamkos with around 4 minutes left in the first to keep the score level.
Zibanejad extended his points streak to six games with five goals and five assists in the streak. … The Rangers are 7-3 when scoring first this playoff and 6-1 when leading after two periods. … Tampa Bay is 1-3 when it allowed the first goal and 1-3 when trailing after two periods. … Rangers have scored six goals in consecutive qualifying matches for the first time since winning the Cup in 1994.
Kreider has 51 playoff points, tying Walt Tkaczuk for fifth in New York franchise history. His 33rd playoff goal moved one behind Rod Gilbert for the most in franchise history.
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