Henrik Lundqvist finds the puck – shot by Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov in overtime – behind him as the Rangers lose Game 3 and now face a 2-1 series deficit.
The Rangers can only skate off and look forward to Game 4.
STEVE NESIUS/Steve Nesius for the NY Daily Ne
Chris Kreider (l.) skates away as Tampa Bay Lightning players celebrates a goal in the second period of their Game 3 win over the Rangers, won in overtime, 6-5 on Wednesday night.
TAMPA — If Game 2 was an “embarrassment.” Game 3 was a gut-punch.
The Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov skated into the offensive zone and managed to beat Henrik Lundqvist with a shot from the high slot at 3:33 of overtime to hand the Rangers a 6-5 loss Wednesday after the Rangers had tied the game with less than two minutes left in regulation.
The Rangers trail the Eastern Conference final series 2-1.
Dan Boyle, who won the 2004 Stanley Cup with the Lightning, tied the game with 1:56 left in regulation, cleaning up a loose puck in the crease after Ben Bishop couldn’t hold onto Keith Yandle’s shot.
Ondrej Palat scored his second goal of the game with 5:55 left in the third to put Tampa Bay up 5-4.
Derick Brassard scored on a power play just 1:02 into the game to give the Rangers an early lead after Cedric Paquette took a roughing penalty 26 seconds after the first puck dropped. Brassard netted his sixth goal of the playoffs by winding up from the high side of the left circle and whizzing a slapper by Bishop (xx saves) stick side with Chris Kreider screening in front.
At 5:18, 11 seconds after Dominic Moore came out of the penalty box for a cross-check, Lundqvist turned away Alex Killhorn’s one-timer from the inner edge of the right circle with his left pad coming across the crease.
Jesper Fast doubled the Ranger lead at 9:55 with a nifty backhand to beat Bishop stick side after faking a forehand shot in the slot. Killhorn had a shot saved which was played out by Ryan McDonagh to Kreider, whose pass from the red line put Fast through on goal.
Never seeming comfortable with multi-goal leads in the playoffs, the Rangers squandered their early jumpstart shortly thereafter. Steven Stamkos scored at 11:07 as Lundqvist swatted a weak Killhorn shot right to Stamkos for a one-timer. Boyle had the puck stripped in the offensive zone by Stamkos to begin a rush, and McDonagh’s lazy backcheck allowed Stamkos to easily pounce on Lundqvist’s errant clearance.
Palat tied the game at 10:32 of the second, 21 seconds after Brassard took a hooking penalty; Brassard was guilty of two high-sticking infractions in Game 2. Palat played a give-and-go with Tyler Johnson at the right boards, and when Palat made the pass he easily got by Carl Hagelin and Dan Girardi into the slot and beat Lundqvist stick-side with a forehand shot.
Johnson then put Tampa Bay ahead 3-2 at 13:17 during a 4-on-4, scoring his NHL-best 12th goal of the playoffs with a wide-open net at the crease. Palat’s pass from the goal line got through Kevin Klein and Kreider, who was in position to check Johnson but inexplicably left him all alone, and Lundqvist had no chance to get to the right post in time to challenge Johnson’s shot.
Four minutes plus a second later, Killhorn scored for Tampa’s fourth straight goal to give them a two-goal lead. Killhorn skated into the offensive zone, pulled the puck back on Boyle in the slot and scored his sixth goal of the playoffs. That play began after Martin St. Louis, the former Lightning captain who was booed when he had the puck, made a crisp pass to the slot for Staal who missed the net on an open chance.
When it seemed another game was completely getting away from the Rangers, they offered a prompt rebuttal. Derek Stepan backhanded a pass from behind the net to Klein in the slot. Klein’s shot was saved but Fast roofed the rebound to score his second goal of the game – third of the playoffs – and cut the deficit to one. Fast is the first Rangers rookie to register a multi-goal game on the road in the playoffs since Mike Ridley did it in Game 1 of the division semifinals against Philadelphia in 1986.
Ryan McDonagh scored a power-play goal at 2:28 of the third to tie the game. Kevin Hayes, who switched places to the fourth line with J.T. Miller moving to the top, passed through the slot to McDonagh at the inner edge of the right circle, and McDonagh wristed home his third goal of the playoffs. The Rangers scored at least two power-play goals in consecutive games for the first time all season.
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