Bolts finally lose consecutive playoff games as Rangers go up 2-0
The New York Rangers handed the Tampa Bay Lightning their first back-to-back playoff loss since 2019 with a 3-2 Game 2 win Friday night.
Prior to falling into a 2-0 series hole in the Big Apple, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions had won 17 straight playoff games immediately following a loss within the same postseason.
The last time the Bolts lost two consecutive playoff contests was when the Columbus Blue Jackets swept them in the first round three seasons ago.
"It's been a heck of a ride in terms of responding after losses in the past couple of years. It shows the character of this group. It's the hardest trophy to win," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said, according to Bally Sports' Gabby Shirley. "You're going (to) come across some adverse moments, and this is certainly one of them."
New York recorded its franchise-best eighth consecutive home playoff victory in the 2022 postseason.
The Lightning made it interesting after Nick Paul scored to draw them within one with two minutes remaining, but the Rangers shut the door and sent the Madison Square Garden faithful home happy.
Rangers forward Mika Zibanejad's snipe early in the third period stood as the eventual game-winner.
Bolts star Nikita Kucherov opened the scoring on the power play in the first frame, but Rangers defenseman K'Andre Miller responded just over three minutes later. Kaapo Kakko gave his team a 2-1 edge heading into the first intermission, and New York didn't relinquish the lead for the remainder of the contest.
Rangers veteran Chris Kreider and defenseman Adam Fox chipped in with two assists each.
Fox noted that the Lightning's impressive run wasn't on his teammates' minds entering Game 2.
"We're not thinking about what streaks teams have. ... We're just trying to bring it, day in and day out," Fox said, per USA Today's Vince Z. Mercogliano.
The Eastern Conference Final was largely billed as a goaltending battle, and so far, Igor Shesterkin is outperforming Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Shesterkin stopped 29 of the 31 shots he faced for a .935 save percentage in Game 2. Vasilevskiy uncharacteristically struggled, stopping 25 of 28 shots to author an .893 clip.
"We get a chance to come back in front of our fans, and let's start with next game, and we'll go from there," Stamkos said, according to Shirley. "This is a resilient group, and we need to get back to our identity. ... We got to buckle down a little bit defensively."
Puck drops on Game 3 at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday as the series shifts to Tampa Bay.