The Lightning appear to own Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers goalie has now given up six goals in back-to-back games, and of six games this season in which he’s allowed five or more goals, the last four have come against Tampa Bay. This is not to suggest that the usually dependable Lundqvist has some psychological hangup with the Bolts; only that Tampa’s offense can be so overpowering when it’s on, that not even the best can stand up to it.
It was the “Triplets” again last night, that line of Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, and Nikita Kucherov, and enough can’t possibly be said about them. Each found the net in the Lightning’s 6-5 OT win over the Rangers, Palat twice. Together the linemates (all of whom were drafted or signed by Tampa in 2011) have accounted for seven goals over the last two games; and 25 of the Lightning’s 47 goals this postseason. “It’s so much fun to play with those two guys,” Palat said.
Lundqvist has been unlike himself these past two games, letting things past that he usually stops. You can chalk some of that up to the pace of these games, which have featured a ton of end-to-end play; to defensive breakdowns and line-matching failures; and to plain old awesome play from the Lightning.
But Kucherov’s overtime winner? That was a soft goal.
Lundqvist had no answer for why he didn’t see Kucherov’s wrister from between the tops of the circles until it was on its way past.
“For some reason I couldn’t pick it up,” Lundqvist said. “It comes at me and looks like it’s coming towards me, and then I’m just late reacting. I don’t know why I didn’t pick it up.
That’s not good enough for the New York tabloids. The Daily News’ back page today is this fantastic nod to David Letterman’s last show:
If this is how the series is going to go, it’s going to be wildly entertaining—“Good hockey for fans,” Palat called it—and it’s going to be over very soon. Though the Rangers scored the third-most goals in the NHL and had the league’s best goal differential, they can’t win a shootout with the Lightning (who were first and second in those respective categories). The Rangers tighten up in the spring, something that usually serves them well in the playoffs, where games tend to be physical and the ice feels smaller. But that relies heavily on their defense, probably the best in the league, and on their all-world goalie. Both of those strengths are failing, and their primary scorers simply don’t have the young legs to run with the Lightning’s top two lines.
Put more simply, the Rangers are designed to win 2-1 games and the Lightning to win 6-5 games. That latter skillset doesn’t usually get the chance to be exercised in the postseason, but then, teams don’t usually have the firepower these Lightning possess. The Rangers will incessantly mention how they need to get back to playing their game, but it’s infinitely easier to talk about slowing Tampa down than it is to actually do it.