Rangers Open Eastern Conference Finals With Romp Over Lightning

Outside Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night, lightning struck and rain fell across Midtown Manhattan. Inside the arena, Rangers fa...


Outside Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night, lightning struck and rain fell across Midtown Manhattan. Inside the arena, Rangers fans screamed, defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning cracked, and Tampa Bay fell in a shocking opener of the Eastern Conference Finals.

In Rangers’ first foray into the third round of the playoffs in seven years, they beat the two-time defending champions and won, 6-2, to win Game 1 in front of a sold-out crowd of 18,006 who thundered their joy from the beginning of the game until its end.

Midway through the third period, the fans were so comfortable with their team’s lead that they chanted “Igor is better,” a reference to Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin and his duel with his Russian counterpart, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay’s normally superb goaltender.

It all went the Rangers way on Wednesday and the Lightning, who are looking to become the first team to win a third straight Stanley Cup since the Islanders did it in 1982, are hoping to regroup ahead of Friday’s rematch in the second game.

Shesterkin made 37 saves and Filip Chytil scored two goals, while Chris Kreider, Frank Vatrano, Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad also netted. For Vasilevskiy, it was the most goals he had allowed in the playoffs since allowing six in an overtime loss to the Florida Panthers last year, and Tampa still bounced back to win this series and the Cup.

Rangers had won two previous series to get to this stage of the playoffs, but Wednesday marked the first time this year that they had taken the lead in a series before the decisive win, and it came against England. favorite team.

Never mind the odds, though. The Rangers may be the most dangerous team in the playoffs and are certainly the most exciting team in New York right now.

Hours before the puck dropped to open the series, fans in blue, white and red Rangers jerseys flooded Seventh and Eighth Avenues and into the garden for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals of their team since 2015, when they also played against the Lightning.

The Garden had been the scene of several deafening and energetic playoff matchups so far, including the Rangers’ Game 7 of the first round against the Pittsburgh Penguins and their Game 6 of the second round against the Carolina Hurricanes, with both Rangers winning.

The building was throbbing again on Wednesday, perhaps even with a more noticeable intensity reflecting the final round of the playoffs. The decibel level soared as Rangers scored first, Kreider’s goal just a minute and 11 seconds into the game, sparking a torrent of cheers.

The excitement built in the first two periods as Rangers took a 4-2 lead after the first 40 minutes, perhaps taking advantage of the Lightning’s long layoff between games, in throwing pucks at Vasilevskiy. The four goals in the first two periods were one more than Vasilevskiy allowed in the Lightning’s four-game sweep of the Florida Panthers that ended May 23.

Each goal prompted deafening screams and screams, forcing the media deck on the upper level of the garden to sway gently with the din.

“He’s still building,” said Elizabeth Famiglietti, a middle school teacher from East Northport, Long Island, who wore a No. 75 Ryan Reaves jersey. “It was pretty clear in the last two rounds that the players really responded to fans and cheers, so we have to bring it back.”

Celebrities, like Yankees first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who made it to the game after a rain, rapper Fat Joe, Giants linebacker Blake Martinez, Giants coach Brian Daboll, who was a fixture at the Garden during that playoff race, and “Stranger Things” actor Noah Schnapp joined in the festivities and was featured on the giant video screen above the ice.

For a member of the Lightning, facing the Rangers in the playoffs at the Garden was a bit odd on its own. Second-year Lightning center Ross Colton grew up in Robbinsville Township, central Jersey, as an avid Devils fan. He remembers watching every home game in the 2012 playoffs, when the Devils beat the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals on Adam Henrique’s goal in overtime in Game 6.

A decade later, he was on the ice in the middle of it all.

“I’ve always had a bit of contempt for Rangers,” he said before the game. “I feel like yesterday I was taking the train to watch the Devils and Rangers. It’s kind of crazy to go out to MSG and play.

When fans entered the arena, they arrived at their seats to find wristbands with alternating red, white and blue lights, which made the inside of the arena sparkle like a themed Christmas tree. Rangers. But they didn’t need any material incentive to cheer their team on with a bang, other than seeing their players on the ice score goals and complete checks.

But Rangers fans were also acutely aware of the challenge their team faced regardless of the outcome of Game 1. Ronald Ditchek and Sam Ditchek, brothers from Brooklyn, had attended playoff games against the Penguins and Hurricanes.

“Tampa Bay is the real test,” said Sam Ditchek.

Tampa Bay won the last playoff series against the Rangers seven years ago in seven games, and a handful of the same players took to the ice Wednesday for the Lightning, including key current team members like Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Alex Killorn and Nikita Kucherov. This quartet also helped win the last two Stanley Cups.

But the young Rangers are energetic, skilful and opportunistic. And, as the playoffs go on, they gain confidence and believe they may be better than anyone thought.

“Every round gets better,” said Famiglietti, the Long Island teacher, “But no matter what happens, it feels like this team has arrived. We belong here.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Rangers Open Eastern Conference Finals With Romp Over Lightning
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