The trio of Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan and Jesper Fast continued its powerhouse postseason on Saturday.
Stepan provided the go-ahead goal with 12.7 seconds to play in the second period after a Kreider attempt had been blocked in front. Kreider actually had inadvertently swept away the stick of goaltender Ben Bishop earlier in the sequence.
Stepan (goal, four shot attempts, blocked shot) and Kreider (assist, three hits) have stood out more on the score sheet throughout the playoffs, but Fast has quietly played relentless hockey in the last two series since their line was put together.
The Swede refused to lose a puck battle once again on Saturday while registering two hits and a takeaway.
“I think we have confidence in our game. We know what to do and we know what to expect from every guy on our line,” Fast said. “As long as we win the game and we’re playing the right way, I don’t feel like I need to score. Of course, you’re working hard to get these chances. So when the puck comes, you want to put one in. You’ve got to play the right way and hopefully it will come.”
Ondrej Palat’s power-play goal in the third period snapped a Rangers streak of 15 consecutive penalty kills going back to the Capitals series. But the Blueshirts would regroup and kill off the final two penalties in a momentous part of the contest to preserve a tie game and open the door for Dominic Moore’s game-winner. The Rangers’ PK is 28-for-32 in the playoffs.
“They got that seam pass through on the (Palat) one-timer. That’s something they really like to do, and we just weren’t able to get a stick on it. They don’t need a lot of time to make a play and be able to hurt you,” Marc Staal said. “After that goal, we were able to figure it out and keep them from getting those Grade-A opportunities. When we didn’t, Hank (Henrik Lundqvist) stood up for us.”
CALLY IN, BOYLE OUT
Three former Rangers were supposed to suit up for the Lightning on Saturday, but only two made it to the ice.
Despite undergoing an emergency appendectomy five days earlier, former Rangers captain Ryan Callahan played and registered two hits. Instead, it was Brian Boyle (undisclosed) who missed Game 1. Anton Stralman led all skaters with 22:59 of ice time for Tampa Bay and had three shot attempts blocked. While many Rangers keep in touch with their friends from Florida, those relationships have been put aside for the duration of the Eastern Conference finals.
“Obviously you’ve been thinking about them during the regular season when you play them. That was more emotional,” Henrik Lundqvist said. “Now the only thing I see is them being in our way (of) making it to the next round.”
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