NEW YORK — The Lightning won two straight Stanley Cups by perfecting the art of self-correction. They couldn’t be beaten two games in a row because you could trust that they would take a hard look at their own errors and ensure they wouldn’t make them again the next time out.
Because of that, Tampa Bay was unbeatable in the postseason.
With Friday night’s 3-2 Eastern Conference final Game 2 loss to the Rangers, the Lightning not only fell into a 2-0 series hole going back to Tampa, but their streak of 17 straight postseason wins following a loss (2020 to now) — a staple of their success the past two postseasons — also came to an end.
The Lightning’s quest for a three-peat has been derailed here at Madison Square Garden. In Game 2, this Lightning team bore little resemblance to the one that raised Lord Stanley back-to-back seasons.
This version of the Lightning popped up at times when they slogged through the 82-game regular-season schedule, but on many of those nights when they were outplayed, they still found a way to win.
They now know that the Rangers will be a tough task. This wasn’t the “freebie” that Lightning coach Jon Cooper said they gave the Leafs in Round 1. New York just seems quicker than the Lightning.
The Lightning gift-wrapped chances with turnovers, couldn’t sustain offensive zone time and seemed to be playing a gear lower than the Rangers.
Mika Zibanejad put the Rangers up 3-1 just 82 seconds into the third period, surging to the net after Nikita Kucherov’s sloppy clear attempt from the blue line was intercepted by Barclay Goodrow, allowing Zibanejad a clear shot from the left circle, where he beat Andrei Vasilevskiy above his blocker. Nick Paul added a goal with 2:03 remaining for the Lightning.
The Lightning scored 10 seconds into a power play as Kucherov flung a puck past Igor Shesterkin 2:41 into the game, giving them a 1-0 lead.
There wasn’t much the Lightning could do about the Rangers’ first goal. Brandon Hagel blocked K’Andre Miller’s first shot, but it kicked back out to Miller, who found a lane on his second chance to tie.
But the Lightning were stung by the Rangers’ “kid line” again for the go-ahead goal, as Kaapo Kakko parked along the back post and Adam Fox fed him across the slot for a wide-open score.©2022 Tampa Bay Times. Visit tampabay.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.