An intense battle is on in the Eastern and Western Conference finals to decide which teams will advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. The two series have produced some of the most competitive, dramatic postseason hockey in recent memory.
In the Eastern Conference finals, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Rangers are preparing for a game seven as the series is tied at 3-3 after six games. The series has featured a lot of scoring and offensive play.
In game three of the series, the Rangers proved that they could still compete with the Lightning after suffering a 6-2 loss in game two, yet the final score of game three was 6-5 in overtime in favor of the Lightning. Nikita Kucherov scored the winning goal for the Lightning in overtime.
Tampa Bay had a total of 40 shots on net, while the Rangers had 28. Both teams were able to capitalize offensively on the power play, scoring on half of their respective power play opportunities. In the end, Tampa Bay simply had more firepower.
The Rangers tied the series up at 2-2 in game four, completely dominating the Lightning by a score of 5-1.
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist rebounded from allowing six goals in game three and had a stellar performance, only allowing one goal out of 39 shots. Rangers’ left winger Rick Nash scored two goals on the night and finally began to carry over the success he experienced in the regular season to this playoff series.
In game five, Tampa Bay bounced back and secured a shutout over the Rangers, winning 2-0. Lightning goal tender Ben Bishop recorded 26 saves to hold off New York.
Tampa Bay forward Steven Stamkos led his team past the Rangers with a goal and an assist during the game. The Lightning secured the decision with tight defense, especially during the penalty kill, when they killed off all four of the Rangers’ power plays.
With their season on the line, the Rangers retaliated once again in game six to force a decisive game seven.
The Rangers silenced the crowd in Tampa Bay in game six by scoring a staggering seven goals and allowing three. Rangers’ forward Derick Brassard registered a hat trick.
During the third period, the Lightning made a bold move and benched Bishop. He was replaced by backup Andrei Vasilevskiy, who was pulled with over five minutes remaining in an attempt for the Lightning to tie the game up at six. Brassard scored an empty net goal to complete his hat trick, and Vasilevskiy was put back between the pipes.
The final game of the series will be played in Madison Square Garden, where the Rangers have never lost a game seven before. But, of course, with the Stanley Cup Finals on the line, it’s anybody’s game.
Meanwhile, the Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks continue to fight it out in the West. The two teams are very evenly matched with most games being decided by one goal.
In game three, the Ducks defeated the Hawks by a score of 2-1 to lead in the series. Anaheim’s goalie Frederik Andersen played very well, recording 27 saves. The Ducks stepped up defensively in the game as well, playing staunch defense throughout the entire 60 minutes and killing off all five Blackhawks power plays.
But, as has been the custom in this postseason, Chicago came back in game four, fighting through double overtime for a 5-4 victory.
During the second period, the Ducks made history, but in the end could not secure the victory. Anaheim scored the second-fastest three goals in Stanley Cup Playoff history, a staggering trio of goals in the third period. Ryan Kesler, Matt Beleskey and Corey Perry all scored for Anaheim in a span of just 37 seconds.
But the Ducks would still come up one short. Blackhawks’ goaltender Corey Crawford faced a total of 40 shots. Forward Antoine Vermette scored the winning goal for Chicago in the second overtime of the game. This was Chicago’s second multiple-overtime win in this series.
The Ducks regained a series lead in game five in yet another overtime game. The final score was 5-4. Total shots were equal at 28 and both teams were scoreless on the power play. Anaheim winger Matt Beleskey scored the winning goal only 45 seconds into the overtime period.
In game six, the inevitable became reality – the Blackhawks forced a seventh and final game in the series by coming back from yet another overtime loss.
Chicago scored five goals on the Ducks and limited Anaheim to just two markers in what could prove to be the final meaningful hockey game in Chicago until October, depending on the outcome of game seven. The Ducks and Blackhawks will face off one last time May 30 at 8 pm.