NEW YORK (AP) — Filip Chytil scored twice in the second period and the New York Rangers routed the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning 6-2 on Wednesday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin and Frank Vatrano each had a goal and an assist, Chris Kreider also scored and Alexis Lafrenière and Adam Fox each had two assists to help New York win its franchise-record seventh straight home playoff game. Igor Shesterkin stopped 37 shots to improve to 8-3 in the last 11 games.
Steven Stamkos had a goal and an assist, and Ondrej Palat also scored for Tampa Bay, which had won six straight and was playing for the first time since completing its second-round sweep of Florida on May 23. Andrei Vasilevskiy, who gave up just three goals in four games against the Panthers, had 28 saves.
Game 2 is Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
The score was tied 1-1 after 20 minutes before the Rangers took control in the second period. They scored three times while outshooting the Lightning 17-10.
Vatrano gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead at 7:50 of the second as he pounced on a loose puck near the left circle and fired a shot past Vasilevskiy high on the blocker side for his fourth of the postseason.,
Just 25 seconds later, Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman fired a shot off the goalpost, and seconds later the Rangers brought the puck the other way and Vasilevskiy made a sliding save to deny Ryan Strome.
Palat tied it at 8:32, backhanding the rebound of a shot by Stamkos past Shesterkin for his fifth of the playoffs.
The Rangers regained the lead 1:19 later. Kaapo Kakko had the puck behind the Lightning net, came out to the goalie’s right and sent a pass to Chytil in slot that he fired it past Vasilevskiy. It marked the third straight game Chytil scored.
Chytil made it 4-2 with 4:17 left after the Rangers had extended possession in the offensive zone. He got a cross-ice pass from K’Andre Miller and fired a one-timer past Vasilevskiy for his seventh of the postseason — and fifth in three games.
Panarin got a cross-ice pass from Andrew Copp in the left circle on a 2-on-1 and fired it past Vasilevskiy to give the Rangers a three-goal lead 30 seconds into the third. It was his fifth of the playoffs.
Less than two minutes later, Shesterkin made two big saves during a Lightning power play, stopping a slap shot by Nikita Kucherov and and a follow by Corey Perry. He was then down on the ice for several minutes after getting hit in the head by Stamkos after the second save.
Zibanejad made it 6-2 at 6:06 after extended time in the offensive zone on a power play, firing a one-timer from the left circle off a pass from Panarin for his eighth of the playoffs. It gave the Rangers a goal with the man advantage for the sixth straight game, tying a franchise playoff record, previously accomplished in 1986 and 1990.
With much of the focus coming into this series centered on the goalies, the Madison Square Garden crowd began chants of “I-gor’s bet-ter! I-gor’s bet-ter!” midway through the third period.
Tempers flared with less than two minutes remaining as several skirmishes broke out in one corner. Six players received penalties, putting Tampa Bay on a power play to finish the game.
Kreider got the Rangers on the scoreboard first 1:11 into the game on the game’s first shot on goal. Zibanejad got a long lead pass from Vatrano up the right side on a 2-on-1, sent a pass across to Kreider, who fired it past Vasilevskiy from the inside edge of the left circle for his ninth goal of the postseason.
Shesterkin then stopped a slap shot by Jan Rutta at 2:09 on the Lightning’s first shot.
Stamkos tied it at 7:19 as he got a pass from Rutta in the high slot and fired a slap shot past Shesterkin just under the crossbar for his fifth of the playoffs.
Shesterkin denied two tries in close by Stamkos with about 4 minutes remaining in the first to keep the score tied.
Zibanejad extended his points streak to six games with five goals and five assists in the stretch. ... The Rangers are 7-3 when scoring first this postseason, and 6-1 when leading after two periods. ... Tampa Bay is 1-3 when giving up the first goal, and 1-3 when trailing after two periods. ... The Rangers have scored six goals in consecutive playoff games for the first time since their Cup-winning run in 1994.
Kreider has 51 postseason points, tying Walt Tkaczuk for the fifth place in New York franchise history. His 33rd postseason goal moved one behind Rod Gilbert for the most in franchise history.