NEW YORK — The New York Rangers gave up an unusual short-handed goal as a two-man advantage was expiring early in the first period.
It was all downhill the rest of the way, and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Rangers 6-2 on May 18 to even the Eastern Conference finals at one game.
Tyler Johnson, who had three goals to pace the Lightning, got that goal to get Tampa Bay rolling and set the tempo in a sloppy Rangers effort.
“That’s something you don’t see very often, and it’s a play that simply can’t happen,” Rangers Captain Ryan McDonagh said.
The Rangers were late into a 1:07 two-man advantage when Martin St. Louis fell trying to take a shot straight on, and it sent Johnson on a breakaway with St. Louis in pursuit.
“It’s embarrassing,” McDonagh said. “There a lot of things you want to say right now, but talking doesn’t do much.”
The Rangers penalty killers didn’t accomplish much either, allowing the Lightning three goals on six man advantages.
“We’re in the Eastern Conference finals,” Derek Stepan said. “We’re not playing a team with a poor power play. The have a really good hockey team. You see how detailed you have to be in the playoffs. You make some mistakes and they wind up in the back of your net.”
Johnson, the 24-year-old who is becoming one of the front-runners to be the postseason MVP, had three of them.
Johnson scored short-handed, even strength and on the power play in tallying the first hat trick in Lightning playoff history and Tampa Bay got its high-scoring offense in gear.
Alex Killorn added two goals and Steven Stamkos had one and the Lightning bounced back from a crushing late loss on May 16 and made the Presidents’ Trophy winners pay for every slip, penalty and mistake.
The Lightning stepped up their game, and the Rangers could not keep pace.
“We were pretty upset with our effort, Killorn said of the Game 1 loss. “We talked about how bad we played and we were still in that game. Tonight we played to win. I think the last game we were kind of ‘OK, it’s Game 1. We’re going to play hard.’ Today we played to win.”
Chris Kreider and Stepan scored for the Rangers in the wide-open, penalty-filled matchup that ended New York’s run of playing in 15 straight playoffs games decided by one goal.
Henrik Lundqvist, who gave up at least five goals in two of three regular-season games against Tampa Bay this season, gave up six on just 26 shots.
The series shifts to Florida for games on May 20 and May 22.ic
The Rangers pushed back later in the second period and closed the gap to 3-2 when Stepan grabbed his own rebound and banked the puck off defenseman Braydon Coburn into the net with Bishop out of position.
New York had a couple of chances to tie the game later in the period, but Bishop stopped point shots by Dan Boyle and McDonagh.
The Lightning ended the Rangers’ run of one-goal playoff games in the third period on Killorn’s two goals and Stamkos’ one. Defenseman Victor Hedman set up Killorn’s first shortly after a penalty ended. Stamkos scored on a deflection on a power play and Killorn got his second on a power play.
The game had an ugly moment in the second period when linesman Brad Kovachik had to leave the ice after injuring a leg. He was standing against the side boards near the Lightning blue line when Stamkos checked Kevin Klein of the Rangers into him.
Kovachik had to be helped off the ice. Standby linesman Greg Devorski finished the game.