Rangers Hit Road Up 2-0
Since being on the wrong end of a stunning sweep at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2019 playoffs, the Tampa Bay Lightning have proven to be the most resilient team in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Tampa Bay lost 17 times in the postseason during that stretch and bounced back with a win en route to winning back-to-back Stanley Cup titles. That streak ended with Friday’s 3-2 loss to the Rangers.
Seven teams in the Eastern Conference had better odds to win the Eastern Conference title than the Rangers coming into the season so this has been a pretty improbable run.
According to the NHL betting lines, the Rangers’ odds to win the Stanley Cup championship moved from +325 to +250 while the Lightning dropped from +375 to +650.
Rick Nash Trade Is Gift that Keeps Giving
There have been quite a few trades that have helped the New York Rangers get to where they are. However, the one that sent veteran winger Rick Nash to the Boston Bruins could be the one paying the greatest dividends. Among the pieces that the Rangers got in return were defenseman Ryan Lindgren and a first-round pick that after another deal resulted in the selection of fellow defenseman K’Andre Miller.
Miller was on the ice for 23:15 and Lindgren for 19:27 as the Rangers outplayed the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final.
Miller scored the first of three straight goals by the Rangers as New York went up 2-0 in the series by winning both games at home. A key to the postseason run has been the maturity that the Rangers’ young players have shown. Seven of the 18 skaters used in the first two games are under 25. They have combined for four goals and nine assists with the 13 points matching the total of the 11 skaters over the age of 25.
The “Kid Line” delivered again with Kaapa Kakko scoring on Filip Chytil’s assist that gave the Rangers the lead they would not relinquish.
RANGERS WIN!!!! pic.twitter.com/vuDRytpNNW
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) June 4, 2022
It was more than the offensive numbers. Other than a flurry of shots by the Lightning in the first six minutes of the game as well as in the final four minutes, the game was controlled by the younger and less playoff-tested Rangers.
“It’s really exciting,” said defenseman Adam Fox, who has assisted on four of the Rangers’ nine goals in the series. “We were on the other side of it when we were down 2-0, so I think it’s a good lesson for us not to take our foot off the gas.”
Something to consider for those who bet online, the total has gone under in six of New York’s last nine games.
Lightning Hoping Return to Tampa Will Change Fortunes
It seems almost like a foregone conclusion that the two-time defending NHL champions would respond to losing the opening game of the Eastern Conference Final by taking Game 2. In the last 17 games lost by the Lightning in the postseason, 17 times Tampa Bay won the next game.
When the Lightning got an early power play and took the lead on a goal by Nikita Kucherov 2:41 into the first period, it looked like business as usual. However, after managing the first six shots of the game thanks in large part to the power play, the ice began to be tilted in the Rangers’ favor. The Rangers had nine straight shots on goal at one point during the second period. At the midway point of the game, Tampa Bay had yet to record its 10th shot on goal.
Tampa Bay did make things interesting as Nick Paul’s goal with 2:02 left and the goalie pulled for the Lightning did make it a one-goal game. The Lightning had three more shots on the goal the rest of the way but couldn’t get the tying goal past Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin.
Don’t let the 3-2 final disguise the fact that Tampa Bay looked a step slow. Reigning Conn Smythe winner Andrei Vasilevskiy was bobbling pucks that he usually freezes throughout the game. Those who didn’t know any better would have thought that the Rangers were the team with all the playoff experience.
Perhaps the fact that eight of the 18 skaters for Tampa Bay played less than 15 minutes played a role in the extra jump that the Rangers seemed to have. The Lightning were coming off a four-game sweep while New York needed seven games to dispatch Carolina in the last series so Tampa Bay figured to be the team with the fresher legs early in this series. That has not been the case.
The Las Vegas odds total has gone under in six of Tampa Bay’s last seven games.
Rangers vs Lightning Head-to-Head
The Rangers are 5-0 against the Lightning this season with the Lightning being favored each time. The Rangers have outscored the Lightning 19-8 in those games. The Rangers are 5-3 in the last eight games played on the road against the Lightning.
The Rangers are 6-3 in the last nine one-goal games against Tampa Bay. Mika Zibanejad has six goals in five games against Tampa Bay this season while Fox has seven assists. Shesterkin has a 1.57 goals-against average when facing Tampa Bay this year.
The Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy is 0-4 with a 3.82 GAA against the Rangers.
Rangers vs Lightning Game Information
- Game: Rangers (52-24-6 in the regular season); Lightning (51-23-8)
- Location: Amalie Arena, Tampa
- Day/Time: Sunday, 3 p.m. ET
- Live Stream: NHL TV
Lightning vs Rangers Betting Lines
Rangers vs Lightning Prediction
It can be dangerous to count out the Tampa Bay Lightning. Toronto found that out the hard way as the Lightning won two elimination games, including one on the road to survive in the first-round series. However, this is a game the Lightning needs to win.
Tampa Bay bounced back to win more faceoffs in Game 2 after being -11 in that department in the opening contest. Being at home should give Tampa Bay the chance to continue to lead in that department.
They haven’t used it as an excuse but Tampa Bay missing center Brayden Point, the team’s leading goal scorer in the postseason in both 2020 and 2021, leaves a huge hole in the lineup.
The odds now favor the Rangers winning the series in five games as that carries a payout of +325. The odds are +400 for the series being decided in seven games regardless of which team emerges victorious.
Expect Tampa Bay to play like its season and bid for a third straight NHL title is on the line because that is pretty much what the deal is.