NEW YORK – Ben Bishop was forced to the dressing room during warmups after taking a shot to the midsection. Braydon Coburn left the game after the first period when he got sick on the bench.
By the time Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals was over, the Rangers were the ones sick to their stomachs – one loss away from the beginning of summer.
Tampa overcame quite a few obstacles to win Game 5, 2-0. They fought through a lightning-fast start by the Rangers, buoyed by the loudest crowd of the season at Madison Square Garden. Perhaps most importantly, they finally stopped the Rangers’ suddenly red-hot power play, which went 0-for-4 on Sunday after going 6-for-13 over the previous three games.
“If we can win the special teams war, you give yourself a better chance to win,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “I really thought it kind of sucked a little bit of the momentum away from them, and then we scored after that. It was almost like we may have popped the bubble a little bit. I thought we got stronger after that.”
“Our execution was a little bit slow tonight on the power play,” said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault. “Because it was slow, it made it easier for them to defend. We didn’t get very many looks on it, and obviously that was a big part of tonight’s game.”
“We worked extremely hard to get the puck back on the power play and then just [made] poor decisions with it,” said Rangers forward Derek Stepan. “We had a look early on and [Chris Kreider] hit the side of the net. Are we having this conversation if he scores that goal, I’m not sure.”
Valtteri Filppula opened the scoring at 13:29 of the second period when he beat Henrik Lundqvist (20 saves) in transition. Steven Stamkos scored the game’s other goal nearly five minutes later off a brilliant passing play on the power play.
“We’d like to get one obviously, and they convert on one of theirs,” said defenseman Marc Staal of the man advantage. “We just weren’t able to find a way to get one tonight. You have to find different ways to win hockey games. We just couldn’t find ways to get one behind [Ben Bishop] tonight.”
So now they find themselves in a familiar position. One more loss ends their season. The Rangers, though, are notoriously-difficult to knock out of the playoffs. Since 2012, they’re 14-3 in their last 17 potential elimination games.
“Our intentions are to continue to play,” said Vigneault. “If we want to continue to play, we’re going to have to, obviously, play our best game of the year. [Tampa] is playing extremely well. I think our experience in these situations might come in and help. But at the end of the day, we’ve got to go out and execute. We’re going to have to play our best game of the year.”
“I’m not really sure what to expect down in Tampa in [Game 6] but we just have to prepare for the next one,” Lundqvist said. “It’s not like we haven’t been there before. We just have to go out there and leave everything out there and see how far it takes us. It’s going to be a challenge for us.”
The Rangers had their eight-game winning streak in Games 5, 6, and 7 at home snapped. The streak dated back to Game 7 of the conference quarterfinals in 2012.
The Lightning blocked 24 shots, their most since blocking 27 during Game 1 of the second round against Montreal.