Keys to Winning Game 4: New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

The New York Rangers weren’t far off from taking a 3-0 series lead against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, but Ondrej Palat had other plans.

So, heading into Game 4, it’s a 2-1 series advantage for the New York Rangers, and the three games prior have been quite exciting after somewhat dull series’ — albeit a seven-game one for the Rangers — for both teams compared to the Battle of Alberta.

In a way, the Lightning are still in must-win territory. Winning games on the road at Madison Square Garden has been a nightmare, and the Rangers have played some fantastic hockey as of late. They’ve essentially been living on the adrenaline of winning every elimination game they’ve been in during the Stanley Cup playoffs and the ability to push the Lightning to the brink of it has to fire that group up.

But, Tampa Bay is Tampa Bay, and we know just how good they are when their backs are against the wall. Here’s a look at what to keep an eye on ahead of Game 4 in Florida:

Tampa Bay is finally back in it, but can they capitalize?

After an uncharacteristic start to the Eastern Conference final, the Lightning finally eked out a win to cut the series to 2-1.

It wasn’t easy, and Igor Shesterkin had one of his best performances of the Stanley Cup playoffs, but Tampa’s stars came to play in Game 3 and gave them a chance to breathe a bit before their second game at home on Tuesday. 

New York — seemingly billed as the underdogs against the two-time defending champions — got a bit of a boost after going straight from the excitement of a Game 7 win over Carolina to win two straight games, and take a 2-0 lead in Game 3 over the Lightning. The Bolts fought back, though, and are looking to potentially spin the series around with a Game 4 victory.

Tampa’s offense was in full force in Game 3, but the blueline needs to do a better job of limiting New York’s high-danger scoring opportunities and take space away in all situations. And the penalties! Both of New York’s second-period goals on Sunday were with the man advantage. Penalty issues nearly took Tampa out of the first-round matchup against Toronto, and they can’t let New York’s top shooters fire with free reign.

Shesterkin is still the key to success for NYR

Of all goalies with at least 10 games played in the post-season, no goaltender has faced more high-danger shots against-per-60 at 5-on-5 than Shesterkin, who has faced 11.78. In terms of total shots, he’s also first at 34.63, which is slightly inflated by his 79-save effort in Game 1 of the Rangers’ first-round series against Pittsburgh.

For as good as Mika Zibanejad has been, Shesterkin has been just as important for the Rangers. Shesterkin faced 52 shots in Game 3, stopping 49 of them. As Tampa got desperate, Shesterkin’s play kept the Rangers in it and, for a chunk of it, even in the lead. The two goalies, in a way, can cancel each other out at their best, and the Rangers are getting top-notch goaltending out of the expected Vezina Trophy winner.

Scoring depth has been a strength for the Rangers as of late, and K’Andre Miller and Adam Fox, in particular, have been fantastic for the Rangers. They’re still in control of the series, and a win in Game 4 would give the group ultimate confidence before heading back home in one of the hardest buildings to win in for road teams.

As long as Shesterkin holds his end of the bargain, the Rangers are in good hands.

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