Rangers rout ‘rusty’ Lightning in East opener

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    Greg WyshynskiESPN

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      Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer.

NEW YORK — The New York Rangers entered Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals with their adrenaline still pumping from Monday’s Game 7 win at the Carolina Hurricanes. The Tampa Bay Lightning, in contrast, hit the ice for the first time since completing a sweep of the Florida Panthers way back on May 23. Their respective layoffs were evident in the Rangers’ 6-2 win over the Lightning at Madison Square Garden to gain a 1-0 series lead.

“There were a lot of sharpness [for us]. Our team kept going, as we discussed. Gerard Gallant, Rangers coach, said that they were given a day off and played a game. It really worked out for them tonight.” “Obviously, they were a bit rusty tonight. Nine days was a long time between them and their normal routine. It makes a big difference. “

Jon Cooper, his counterpart, also noted the rustiness.

” We might have become tired as the game progressed. He said that we hadn’t played in a long time here. “But that’s not an excuse on our part. I give the Rangers high marks for their game. “

The Lightning players didn’t use the layoff to compensate for their poor defense.

“We certainly didn’t have our best,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. It is what it is. We are not going to use that as an excuse. We must be better. “

The game was billed as a goaltending duel between the Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy, who won playoff MVP honors for the back-to-back Stanley Cup champions last summer, and the Rangers’ Igor Shesterkin, who is expected to win the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender this season.

Instead, the Rangers scored more goals in one game than Vasilevskiy had surrendered in his previous five games combined.

New York was on the Lightning from the first moments of the game, as Chris Kreider scored on a Tampa Bay turnover just 1: 11 into regulation for his ninth of the season. But Stamkos scored the equalizer at 7: 18 of the first.

” It’s a bummer. Cooper said that he thought we rebounded well. “But I think we did things tonight that we didn’t do in the previous rounds. Rangers have some talented players. They will go the distance if you give them an inch. “

In the second period, forward Frank Vatrano raced back to break up a Lightning odd-man rush and later snapped a shot over Vasilevskiy for the lead. The Lightning again answered, just 42 seconds later, on an Ondrej Palat goal. New York was ahead with the Rangers’ “Kid Line”, which scored twice in five minutes. Filip Chytil scored both his sixth and seventh of the playoffs, beating Vasilevskiy at 10: 09 and then ending over two minutes of offensive zone time for the Rangers with a snap shot past Vasilevskiy at 15: 43.

The Rangers didn’t let up in the third, scoring 30 seconds into the period on an Artemi Panarin shot and then striking for the first time on the power play on Mika Zibanejad‘s eighth goal of the playoffs.

“Turk’s got them rolling,” Cooper said of Gallant and his team. They didn’t fluke their path to the playoffs. “

Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman said the Rangers are also a different team than the one the Lightning saw in the regular season.

“Yeah. A little. He said that they have strong goaltending, good D-corps and some acquisitions that we haven’t seen in their jerseys.

The Lightning last faced the Rangers on March 19, before the NHL trade deadline. Since then, New York added forwards Andrew Copp and Tyler Motte, as well as defenseman Justin Braun. The Rangers also discovered some line combinations that worked in the postseason like the “Kid Line.” “

“You know, they’re rolling. They were confident going into tonight’s match after their big win against Carolina. Hedman stated that they expected it.

Cooper also noted the differences in Rangers but said that in the end, it was still familiar faces who made the difference.

“They’ve made some adds. He said that they have a great team. He said, “But it was still all those guys that have been around here a while that had there fingerprints on the scoresheet.”

Some significant names were kept off the scoresheet for the Lightning, like Nikita Kucherov, Hedman and Brandon Hagel. They didn’t look like they did in the second round against the Panthers. Cooper said that they haven’t started series on the wrong foot in the past and there’s no need to panic.

“It’s Game 1. This has happened before. He said that we have won series even though we lost the first one.

Game 2 will be held in New York on Friday night.

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