Lightning put Rangers on the ropes with Game 5 victory
The home team had won every game in the Eastern Conference Final heading into Game 5, but the Bolts bucked that trend with a 3-1 win at Madison Square Garden.
"It definitely stings. ... It was a tight game that could have gone either way," Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba told reporters postgame, per USA Today's Vince Z. Mercogliano. "I think that's what makes it more frustrating for us. It's not like we're getting the doors blown off."
Ondrej Palat scored the game-winner for Tampa Bay after he got a piece of defenseman Mikhail Sergachev's shot with less than two minutes remaining in regulation. Forward Brandon Hagel sealed the victory with an empty-netter.
Sergachev led the way for the Lightning, recording the team's first goal of the contest and a helper.
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said he's been pleased to see his team make improvements defensively as the series has progressed.
"We didn't like the first two games for sure, very uncharacteristic plays and sloppy hockey," he said, per Bally Sports' Gabby Shirley. "I think toward the end of that second game, the third period, we tried to build off that, that was more our style."
He added: "We found a recipe here. Game 3, it was two goals (against). Last game, one. Tonight, one. Those are the types of games you have to win come playoff time."
Rangers blue-liner Ryan Lindgren opened the scoring midway through the second period. That was the only time New York put the puck past Lightning star goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who dazzled with a 24-save performance.
Igor Shesterkin also played well, making 24 stops on 26 shots.
Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said his team is ready for a fight in Game 6 with the Rangers' season on the line.
"I expect their best game with the guy they have leading the charge behind the bench," he said, per team beat writer Chris Krenn. "(Gerard Gallant's) a hell of a coach. He'll have them going. The New York Rangers are a better team today than they were (the) opening night of the playoffs."
Cooper continued: "I would expect nothing less than an outstanding effort from them. In saying that, just because we're going home, it would be naïve for us to think that now we're going back here and we're just going to win this game. Not a chance."
Game 6 is set for Saturday as the Lightning will attempt to get one step closer to claiming their third consecutive Stanley Cup.
This is the third time the Rangers have been in a 3-2 hole in these playoffs. They clawed their way back against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Carolina Hurricanes in the first and second rounds, respectively.