Rangers regain home ice edge
So, yes, there will be at least six games, with the Rangers having regained home ice advantage, heading into Game 5 with the series tied 2-2. How these two teams got to this point in the series wasn't so easily predictable. From a typical Rangers' 2-1 victory in the conference final opener, the roller coaster ride began with a Lightning 6-2 blowout in Game 2, followed by a wild, 6-5 scoring spree in the first game in Tampa and then a surprise Rangers' one-sided 5-1 win in Game 4, to reduce the series to a best-of-three for the Eastern Conference title.
Game 4 saw the return to the score-sheet for the Rangers' Rick Nash, and to a lesser extent, although obviously a big relief to him, of Martin St. Louis. It was Nash's breakaway effort that launched the New York offence, the only goal of the opening period.
The Rangers answered a tying goal from Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos in the second period with scores from Chris Kreider and Keith Yandle and put the contest away with third period power play goals by Nash and then St. Louis.
Return of the king
Henrik Lundqvist recovered completely from back-to-back six-goal tallies against the Rangers in the Lightning's victories to stop 38 of 39 shots, including 18 of 19 in the second period when it was still a one-goal game. King Henry ruled while the Lightning were on the power play -- a previous source of their Game 2 and 3 firepower -- including this sequence early in the second period.
The five-time Vezina Trophy nominee (2012 winner) as the NHL's best goaltender seems to be back in form, while the Rangers have a record of 4-1 in their last five series when they were tied at 2-2.
Road gets tougher for Lightning
Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop, with his 10-3 record in the playoffs, would be wise to follow Lundqvist's example on how to handle back-to-back multiple-goal outings. For Bishop, it was five goals allowed in the Game 3 win, followed by the same number in Friday's loss.
No one was pointing any fingers at Bishop who surrendered the latest goals on a breakaway, a tip-in, a deflected shot and a pair of power plays.
Tampa Bay will no doubt be lifted by captain Steven Stamkos scoring for the third game in a row and for the fifth time in five games. He had the Lightning's lone goal in Game 4 which tied the contest midway through the second period.
Stamkos, operating on line 1A for the Lightning with the Triplets line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat providing so much of the offence, gives the team another constant threat to score.
The Lightning won three times on the road in Montreal in the previous series and already have a win at Madison Square Garden so they know they can win away from home. But the series is down to two or three games so they know at least one win must come in New York.