One sports certainty we’ve learned in 2015: never, ever count out the New York Rangers. Oh, and never bad-mouth Henrik Lundqvist.
Lundqvist was brilliant in a do-or-die Game 6 Tuesday at Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay, making 36 saves in a 7-3 Rangers victory. The win forced a winner-take-all Game 7 at Madison Square Garden Friday (8 p.m., NBCSN), with a Stanley Cup Final berth on the line.
Not only was Lundqvist tremendous, but the Rangers found themselves offensively in Game 6, forcing Tampa Bay to remove Ben Bishop midway through the third period. Derick Brassard led the way for the New York attack, recording a hat trick and dishing out a pair of assists.
Brassard figured in to the Rangers’ biggest goal of the night, the lamp-lighter just three minutes into the third period that gave New York a 3-1 lead. Bishop stopped Brassard with a highlight-reel worthy save, on his back, but Brassard was credited with the assist when J.T. Miller banked the puck off the side of Bishop in a scintillating sequence.
James Sheppard scored three minutes later to put the Rangers up 4-1 as he followed through off a rebound and Brassard’s second goal of the night at the 7:14 mark of the third sent Bishop to the bench.
Rick Nash would score on a power play to open up a 6-2 New York lead at the 10:21 mark.
The Rangers held a 2-1 leading heading to the third period as neither team could find the back of the net in the second. Lundqvist had 28 saves through the first 40 minutes of play.
The Rangers went up 2-0 early as Miller fed Brassard off a faceoff and Brassard beat Bishop. Keith Yandle was credited with the second New York goal as his wrister nicked off a Lightning defender to find its way past Bishop.
But the powerful Lightning offense would not be held down for long as Ryan Callahan scored a power-play goal off a breakaway late in the first period to cut New York’s lead in half.
The Lightning outshot the Rangers, 16-7, in the first period.