Nash Scores Twice, Rangers Even Series

48 hours after dropping Game 3 in overtime, the Rangers responded with a 5-1 win to even the Eastern Conference Final at two. The score line is a bit deceiving, as the Rangers were outplayed at even strength by a large margin. It was a good night for the Rangers’ big names; not only did Rick Nash score twice and add an assist, Martin St.Louis got his first goal of the playoffs, and Keith Yandle tallied a goal and two assists. Henrik Lundqvist also bounced back with a strong 38 save performance.

Game Recap:

Nash’s third goal of the playoffs gave the Rangers the lead at 2:42 of the first period. During a battle along the boards in the Rangers’ zone, Carl Hagelin kicked the puck free to Kevin Hayes, who hit Nash in stride right as he entered the Lightning’s zone. As you can see from the overhead view in the second .gif below, Nash’s backhand shot actually hit off the post before bouncing in off Ben Bishop’s leg.

The goal was actually pretty in line with @ChrisBoyle33 article on Nash for msg.com earlier today, in which he explains how Nash is “extremely reliant on teammates finding him in transition.” Also, it was nice to see Nash attack the net as Boyle also pointed out that Nash can often be inefficient and passive once entering the zone.

Overall, the Rangers played a solid first period, holding a 14-10 lead in shot attempts while matching the Lightning in scoring chances at five apiece at even strength. Other than a few close calls, including Tyler Johnson hitting the crossbar on a power play, the Rangers stayed afloat defensively.

However, the Rangers nose dived in the second, with the Lightning controlling the pace and sending 19 shots on goal. This period was awfully similar to the second period in Game 3, in which the Lightning ripped the Rangers apart and scored three times. The only real difference in this game was the Lightning failing to score on almost all of their clear cut chances, mostly due to Lundqvist. By intermission, the Lightning had taken over control in shot attempts (33-21) and scoring chances (16-8).

Steven Stamkos did make the Rangers pay at 8:30 of the period, showing off his patented one-timer from just inside the right circle. Stamkos found space in front of Dan Girardi to receive a pass from Alex Killorn and rip a laser past Lundqvist. Closer replays showed that the shot might have taken a slight deflection off Girardi.

Despite barely surviving the Lightning’s onslaught, the Rangers managed to walk away from the period with a 3-1 lead thanks to late goals by Chris Kreider and Yandle. First, Kreider slid a rebound off a shot by Kevin Klein through Bishop’s legs with 4:44 left in the period. Lightning forward Brendan Morrow played a big part in Kreider’s goal by turning the puck over to Derek Stepan behind the net, starting the sequence.

Yandle then doubled the Rangers’ lead almost two minutes later, at 2:56 of the period, thanks to a fortunate deflection off Victor Hedman’s leg. The Rangers  worked the puck from left to right across the blue line, where Yandle received a pass from Klein and unleashed a shot that was going well wide before hitting off Hedman.

St.Louis provided an important insurance goal on the power play to make it 4-1 at 14:52 of the third period, snapping his playoff goal drought. Dan Boyle made the play happen, stopping a clearing attempt by Jason Garrison and feeding Derick Brassard at the left point. Brassard then moved down the wing and sent a cross ice pass across the Royal Road to St.Louis, who one-timed the puck past a helpless Bishop.

On the Rangers’ following power play, Nash scored his second of the game with 8:27 left to make it 5-1. A low shot by Yandle was redirected on goal by Hayes, and Nash was positioned in front of the net to whack the puck through Bishop’s legs.

Key Numbers and Notes:

-Here are all of the possession stats from tonight’s game, courtesy of war-on-ice.com.

-Nash’s multi-goal game was his first in 57 career playoff games.

-The Rangers have now scored two power play goals in each of the last three games.

-Results wise, the Rangers’ penalty kill was effective tonight, but the Lightning still created several dangerous chances.

-Kevin Hayes and Ryan McDonagh were the only positive possession players for the Rangers.

-Marc Staal was a remarkable -17 in Corsi +/- at even strength.

-Though the Rangers were out chanced 27-17 at even strength, they stayed close in high danger scoring chances (14-13 Lightning).

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-Game 5 is Sunday night at MSG. Game time is 8 PM eastern.

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