NEW YORK–Philip Shettle has found his own scoring touch as he helps the New York Rangers make a breakthrough.
Chettel scored twice in the second half and defeated the two-time Stanley Cup champion Rangers 6-2 in the Tampa Bay Lightning Wednesday night in the first game of the Eastern Conference Finals.
After scoring eight goals in 67 games during the regular season, the 22-year-old has seven goals in 15 playoff games – including five in the last three.
“I’ve been working really hard all season,” Sheetil said. “There were tough moments, many chances but I couldn’t score them in the net. … When you don’t put the pucks in the net you don’t help the team much and you probably start to get a little frustrated. But now you finally get in, I’m very happy that I can Helping the team like this win matches.”
Mika Zibanijad, Artemi Panarin and Frank Vatrano scored a goal and an assist, Chris Kreider also scored and Alexis Lavrinier and Adam Fox managed two passes to help New York win their seventh straight franchise record in the home playoff. Igor Shesterkin blocked 37 shots to grow to 8-3 in the last 11 matches.
Rangers have scored 17 goals in their last three wins, having netted nine over the previous five.
“There was a lot of intensity,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. “(The Lightning) was obviously a little rusty tonight, they weren’t the same after nine days off….Our game is good, we’re playing well, we’re doing the right things now. We just have to keep doing it.”
Stephen Stamkos scored a goal and an assist, and Ondrij Balat also scored for Tampa Bay, who won six consecutive goals and were playing for the first time since completing the second round of the Florida sweep on May 23. Andrei Vasilievsky, who just gave up. Three goals in four games against the Panthers, and he saved 28 times.
“You have to give them credit. They are a really good hockey team,” Stamkos said. And we certainly didn’t have our best. I think we know what we need to do better. I’ve been in this position before. I’m sure we’ll do better in the next match. It is the first game in a long series.”
Match 2 Friday Night at Madison Square Garden.
The score tied 1-1 after 20 minutes before Rangers took control in the second half.
Vatrano gave Rangers a 2-1 lead in the 7:50 minute, as he fired a shot from the left circle, bypassing Vasilevsky in the blocking side for his fourth game of the post-season.
Balat equalized at 8:32, resulting in a shot rebounding from Stamkos past Shesterkin in his fifth qualifying match.
Rangers later regained the lead with a 1:19 ratio. Kaapo Kakko fetched the puck from behind the Lightning net to the goalkeeper’s right and sent a pass to Chytil into the hole for his shot past Vasilevskiy. This is the third consecutive match that Chytil has scored.
Chytil made it 4-2 with 4:17 left as he picked up a cross from K’Andre Miller and fired once past Vasilevskiy in his seventh post-season – and fifth in three games.
Panarin got a cross from Andrew Cobb in the left circle at 2-on-1 and shot it past Vasilevskiy to give Rangers a three-goal lead in 30 seconds in the third minute. This was his fifth of the playoffs.
Less than two minutes later, Shesterkin made two saves during the Lightning power game, and was on the ice for several minutes after being hit in the head by Stamkos after the second save.
Zipanegad made it 6-2 at 6:06 after a long stint in the attack zone in a power match, firing a one-time shot from the left circle from a pass from Panarin in his eighth qualifying game. He awarded Rangers a goal with the man’s advantage for the sixth consecutive game, equaling a playoff record, previously achieved in 1986 and 1990.
“You’re just trying to be ready for any pass,” Zibanjad said. “It worked today, so it’s good. The biggest thing that happened.”
With so much of the focus in the series focused on goalkeepers, the Madison Square Garden crowd began chants of “I’m better! I’m gore better!” midway through the third period.
“They played a good game,” said Victor Hedmann, the lightning defense’s man. “They roll. We predicted that… you would never want to lose two in a row. The recovery will be huge.”
Nerves flared with less than two minutes remaining as several skirmishes erupted in one corner. Ten players received penalties – including two at Rangers’ Barkley Goudreau – to put Tampa Bay in a strong game to end the match.
Kreider got Rangers on the scoreboard for the first time 1:11 in the game with the game’s first shot on goal, grabbing a cross from Zibanegad on 2-on-1 from the inner edge of the left circle to score his ninth postseason goal.
Stamkos leveled at 7:19 when he fired a slap shot from the high hole just under the bar for his fifth qualifying match.
Zipanegad extended his points streak to six games with five goals and five assists in extension. …Rangers scored six goals in consecutive playoffs for the first time since their 1994 Cup-winning run.
Kreider has 51 points for post-season, tied for Walt Takajok for fifth in New York franchise history. His 33rd post-season goal was behind Rod Gilbert by one goal in series history.
Follow Vin Cherwoo at http://www.twitter.com/VinCherwooAP