Not even close, and Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals showed that.
Dominic Moore scored with 2:25 to play, the defense limited Tampa Bay's high-powered offense, and the Rangers defeated goaltender Ben Bishop and the Lightning 2-1 on Saturday to move within three wins of returning to the Stanley Cup finals.
The game-winning goal came just 30 seconds after Moore stepped out of the penalty box, and it capped another nail-biter for the Rangers, who have played 15 consecutive one-goal games in the postseason.
It was typical of the postseason. Nothing pretty. Kevin Hayes sent the puck into the crease, and Moore got position and had the puck deflect off his skate into the net.
"I think it's just a matter of wanting to win," said Moore, who raised his fists and looked up after scoring. "We had lots of looks, couple just before that. I drove it in front, and puck rolled off my tape. Just tried to stay with it and work for a good bounce, and finally it came."
Moore had gotten position on former Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman, whom he had taken down minutes earlier to put Tampa Bay on a power play.
"It's one of those things you can't do much about," Bishop said after losing to the Rangers for the first time in nine career games.
The Rangers have won nine games this postseason and have seven victories by a 2-1 score.
"I think we're just calm out there," Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi said. "We're not nervous. We're like, they tied it up, no big deal. They make a good play on it, make a good shot. We just stick to our game plan. We never deviate from it. I think that's what helps us in the one-goal games."
The series opener was unlike any of the three games between the Rangers and Lightning in the regular season. Tampa Bay won all three by a combined 15-7 margin in giving Bishop an 8-0 career mark against the Rangers.
Ondrej Palat tied the game on a power-play goal early in the third period. Bishop had 28 saves.
Game 2 will be played at Madison Square Garden on Monday night.
The Rangers took three penalties in the third period and seemed to be in trouble when Moore swung his stick and took Stralman down with 4:55 to play in regulation.
The Lightning got only one shot on the power play, which ended with the Rangers getting a 3-on-1 break into the Tampa Bay zone.
Hayes eventually got the puck in the left corner, and for a while it seemed as if he was going to take a bad-angle shot.
However, he fed the puck through the crease and Moore came out from behind the net. The result had Bishop looking up to the ceiling at Madison Square Garden, feeling he probably should have prevented the pass from getting through.
The crowd erupted, the fans celebrated, and the Rangers ran out the final minutes without incident.
Tampa Bay tied the game at 1 early in the third period with Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh off for high sticking.
Palat, who had a couple of good scoring chances late in the second period, took a cross-ice pass from Tyler Johnson and beat Lundqvist with a shot from the right circle.
The Lightning blocked 14 shots in the first two periods, and one of them led to Stepan's second big goal in as many games.
With the second period winding down, Chris Kreider got the puck between the circles and waited a second to find a lane for a shot.
Lundqvist wasn't under as much pressure as Bishop in the first two periods. His best stops came late in the second period against Palat, stopping a deflection in front and later a shot between the circles.
The goaltender also seemed to have a little fun in the period when he used his mask to turn aside a deflection that Filppula made with a high stick.
"To be honest I don't think we tested Lundqvist as much as we should have, not a lot of quality shots, not a lot of shots period," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. "We have to find a way to generate more."
Bishop's best stop was a pad save on a rebound attempt in close by J.T. Miller on a short power play early in the second period.
The 6-foot-7 goaltender stopped all 11 shots in the first period, including a breakaway by Stepan eight minutes into the game. Bishop was lucky, too. He gave away the puck late in the period to Derick Brassard, who hit the crossbar on the ensuing pass.
Neither did much in the game, although Callahan played despite having an appendectomy Monday.
- Dan O'Halloran
- Steve Kozari
- Greg Devorski
- Michel Cormier