(Photo via Tampa Bay Lightning)
By Jake Ricker
After tying the series at two games a pice the Lightning had a chance to push the Rangers to the brink of elimination. But they would have to do it at Madison Square Garden where the Rangers were dominant. The Lightning picked up things right where they left off in game 4 and secured a massive win by a final score of 3-1.
It was a good start to the game, with both teams picking up chances. The game had a fast flow, and both teams wanted that first goal. Kucherov would have a great shot just a few minutes into the game that beat Shesterkin but rang off the crossbar and stayed out. The Rangers pushed back but couldn't create any quality chances. The Lightning then got an opportunity on a 2-on-1, but Bogosian's pass was blocked, breaking up the play.
The Rangers then had some of their best chances, but Vasilevskiy shut them down with ease. Nick Paul then got in on the action for the Lightning as he ripped a shot off the post. Despite only having three shots on goal and two posts, the Lightning looked like they came to play. Both the Rangers and Lightning would get a few more looks on net, but we would end the first period still looking for the first goal of the game.
The second period was more a continuation of the first, with each team picking up some chances but neither being able to find the back of the net. After having no penalties in the first period, the Lightning would get the games first after the Rangers were called for hooking. The Rangers did a good job of shutting down the Lightning power play, though, as they were unable to capitalize. The Rangers would then get a power play of their own, but just as they did a few minutes earlier, the Lightning shut down their man advantage. Things then took a turn for the worse as Bogosian cleared the puck around the boards, but no one was on the side. The Rangers jumped on top of the puck, and Lindgren threw a shot up high and beat Vasilevskiy up high for a 1-0 lead.
The Lightning would get a chance to tie things up after the Rangers took a holding call a few minutes after taking the lead. The Lightning would once again fail to convert on the power play and would have to tie this game up 5-on-5. Both teams would again make a push, but Vasilevskiy and Shesterkin were the stars stopping everything thrown their way.
The Lightning kept pushing though, and would finally break through as Sergachev fired one off the blue line and past Shesterkin to tie the game at one. With the game now tied, the Lightning pushed for the lead getting a few more shots on goal before the end of the period. At the end of 40 minutes, the game was tied at one, and both teams were playing well. It already started to feel like the next goal would win this game.
The final 20 minutes were no different from the first 40 as both teams played in a fast pace hard, hitting game. The Rangers then made their biggest push of the game early in the third and had a few fantastic opportunities to get a puck in the back of the net, but they just couldn't finish on the plays. Vasilevskiy also came up with some huge saves showing off his flexibility to help keep this game tied at one.
As the game continued to wind down, it felt more and more like overtime was inevitable. The Lighting have excelled this postseason at keeping their foot on the gas at all times, and they did just in the final few minutes. With just under 2 minutes left in the game, the Lighting made a big push, and Sergachev fired one from the point that deflected off Palat and past Shesterkin for a 2-1 Lightning lead. With the fans stunned and the Rangers on the ropes, the Lightning looked to close it out. Brandon Hagel would score one last goal in the empty net, and the Lightning would win game five by a final score of 3-1.
The Lightning knew they had to win at least one on the road, which was a difficult task with how well the Rangers played at home. They came out strong in this game and kept their foot on the gas for a full 60 minutes. For the third time this postseason, the Lightning get some late-game heroics are close the game out in the final minutes. Vasilevskiy was great as always, and the defense wasn't perfect but held their own in this game. The Lightning have done a much better job in the last three games at limiting the Rangers east to west passes and kept the turnovers low. This will be the recipe once again for the Lightning in game six.
The Lightning now have a chance to close out the series at home and head back to the Stanley Cup Final for the third consecutive year. The Rangers will likely be playing their best hockey now that their backs are to the wall, so don't take your foot off the gas and end it before you have to head back to New York.
Our Three Stars:
2. Vasilevskiy (TBL)
1. Sergachev (TBL)
Media's Three Stars:
2. Vasilevskiy (TBL)
1. Sergachev (TBL)
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