TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Lightning tested Henrik Lundqvist again — and this time the New York Rangers goalie passed with high marks.
Lundqvist stopped 38 shots to rebound from two subpar performances and help the Rangers shut down the Lightning 5-1 on Friday night in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals.
“People are going to wakeup in the morning, and look at the box score and say, ‘Oh wow’ Tampa got waxed,'” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “But if you’re in the building you probably don’t see it that way.”
Rick Nash had two goals and an assist, and former Lightning captain Martin St. Louis ended a playoff scoring drought with a third-period goal for New York. The Rangers evened the best-of-7 series 2-2 heading back to New York for Game 5 on Sunday night.
“We’ll have to respond,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. “We have to be better next game. It’s 2-2. It’s a best two out of three now. We’ll have to win one on the road.”
Lundqvist allowed 12 goals in losing Games 2 and 3, but redeemed himself by handling nearly everything the speedy and skilled Lightning threw at him.
“Again and again made important saves,” Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman said of Lundqvist. “That’s him.”
Stamkos scored for the third straight game, briefly making it 1-1 before New York’s Chris Kreider and Keith Yandle struck within a 2-minute span for a 3-1 Rangers lead.
With the Lightning’s Nikita Nesterov in the penalty box for high-sticking St. Louis, the star of Tampa Bay’s 2004 Stanley Cup championship team delivered his first goal this postseason to make it 4-1 with just under 15 minutes remaining. Nash added another power-play goal at 11:33 of the third period.
The Lightning outshot the Rangers 39-24 but couldn’t rattle Lundqvist, who rejected Stamkos from point-blank range and moments later stopped Alex Killorn on a breakaway during one sequence with Tampa Bay trying to get back in the game in the second period.
Lundqvist stopped 18 of 19 shots in the period, and had 13 more saves in the third.
“The first two periods we had a ton of chances,” Killorn said. “Seemed like they were getting a couple of bounces. That’s just the way it is.”
Earlier Friday, Lundqvist reiterated after the morning skate that he still had confidence in himself and that one of the keys to rebounding as a team would be not trying to do anything special Friday night, but rather just “do our jobs.”
“The last 48 hours or so, it’s been pretty tough trying not to over analyze or complicate things,” Lundqvist said. “Soul searching.”
“I feel like the entire team stepped up tonight. It feels so good when you’re feeling like you’re doing it together and not just one or two guys.”
In seven games against the Rangers, three of them in the regular season, the Lightning have scored at least five goals on Lundqvist four times. They had six on the road in Game 2, and six more during Wednesday night’s overtime victory that left New York searching for answers to playing better defense in front of him.
Nash led the Rangers with 42 goals during the regular season, but only had two in 15 playoff games before Friday night. The 1-0 lead held up until the Lightning broke through during a frenzied stretch of the second period in which Tampa Bay outshot New York 11-1 and failed to convert two power-play opportunities before Stamkos tied it with his sixth goal of the playoffs, a slap shot from the right circle that skipped up over Lundqvist.
It didn’t take the Rangers long to respond.
Kreider scored at 15:16 of the second when Kevin Klein’s shot caromed off Bishop directly to the New York center in front of the net. Yandle’s goal less than 2 minutes later hit defenseman Victor Hedman’s foot and squirted through to put New York up 3-1.
Yandle finished one goal and two assists. Klein and Kevin Hayes each had two assists for the Rangers.
NOTES: Lightning D Matt Carle didn’t play after leaving in the first period of Game 3 with an undisclosed injury. … Nash organized a team trip to see the movie “Entourage” Thursday night. … Killorn has three goals and three assists in the past three games. … Tampa Bay’s Steve Yzerman and New York’s Glen Sather joined Anaheim’s Bob Murray as finalists for the NHL general manager of the year award. The winner will be announced June 24 in in Las Vegas. Murray won last year.
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