(3A) Lightning vs. (2M) Rangers
8 p.m. (ET); ESPN, ESPN+, CBC, SN, TVAS
Series four of seven is tied 2-2
NEW YORK – Four-game chase heats up in Eastern Conference Finals, but Tampa Bay Lightning won’t see star forward Brayden Point come and help him in the fifth confrontation against the New York Rangers on Thursday.
Point again took part in the team’s optional morning practice, but coach Jon Cooper confirmed his absence in the evening for the ninth game in a row. Point has been sidelined since May 12 with a right leg injury.
The double defending champions will therefore bet on the same formation as in the two victories they acquired at home and which allowed them to create a 2-2 equality in the series.
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The Rangers will be able to count on the center players Ryan Strome and Filip Chytil. Strome was unable to take part in Game 4 after being injured in the previous game. Chytil fell in action late in the second period of Game 4.
Absence of both would have created a huge hole in the center line, while adding heavy pressure on the best player in that position Mika Zibanejad.
The Rangers are very comfortable in Madison Square Garden, where they will try to sign a ninth victory in a row.
What may complicate their task is that the Lightning machine began to roar in Tampa.
Pivotal match, you say?
The expression « pivotal match » is not overused when it comes to the fifth match of a series tied 2-2.
The winning team wins the series 78.5 percent of the time (223-61 record) and the percentage is 76.6 percent for the round just before the Stanley Cup Final. This year, teams that have tied Game 5 in a series have won four of the seven series (57.1 per cent).
Since 2017, the team that wins a tied conference final after four games has won the series five out of six times.
Here are three things to watch ahead of Game 5:
1. Remove Mika from Anthony’s clutches
The homecoming will allow Gerard Gallant to rescue Mika Zibanejad’s trio from the clutches of Anthony Cirelli’s unit.
The Rangers did not score a goal on a numerical tie in the two games played in Tampa and the efficiency of the Cirelli, Alex Killorn and Brandon Hagel is there for something. Zibanejad even underlined their good work after the last game.
Gallant may have multiplied the changes on offense, the Lightning have found their recipe on defense.
Cooper killed two birds with one stone by mutating Ondrej Palat with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov and giving Cirelli a defensive mission ahead of Game 3. The Stamkos line has managed six of the team’s last seven goals. Czech veteran Palat is on fire, with two goals and two assists.
Video: NYR@TBL, #4: Kucherov doubles breakaway lead
2. Regain composure
The Rangers looked pretty shaken after the Hockey 101 lesson the Lightning gave them in Game 4.
Gallant lost his composure in the presence of journalists, precisely in connection with a question about the Zibanejad trio’s inability to produce.
This is probably the reason why the team stayed away from the spotlight on Thursday morning.
« Guys better be relaxed, but they also better be ready, » Gallant said at the end of the night. “We will have to play better, be more combative and hungry. »
The Rangers have to start playing with the puck again. They didn’t have her much in Tampa.
3. The number 60 in the spotlight
For lovers of numerology and statistics, the number 60 is in the spotlight for two star Lightning players. Kucherov will be playing his 60th playoff game on the road and goaltender Vasilevskiy will be looking for his 60th playoff win.
With 66 points on the road, Kucherov is trailed by only five players in history after 60 games — Wayne Gretzky (117), Mario Lemieux (78), Doug Gilmour (78), Mark Messier (72) and Jari Kurri (70).
As for Vasilevskiy, who has found his bearings in Tampa, he is one win away from being the 17th goalkeeper in history to reach the mark of 60 victories (59-34). The only active goalkeeper is Marc-André Fleury, with 92 wins in 167 games played.
Planned formation of the Lightning
Ondrej Palat — Steven Stamkos — Nikita Kucherov
Brandon Hagel — Anthony Cirelli –Alex Killorn
Ross Colton — Nicholas Paul — Corey Perry
Pat Maroon — Pierre-Edouard Bellemare — Riley Nash
Victor Hedman — Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh — Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev — Zach Bogosyan
Cut off: Cal Foote
Wounded: Brayden Point
Planned formation of Rangers
Chris Kreider — Mika Zibanejad — Frank Vatrano
Artemi Panarin –Ryan Strome– Andrew Copp
Alexis Lafreniere — Filip Chytil — Kaapo Kakko
Tyler Motte — Kevin Rooney — Barclay Goodrow
Ryan Lindgren — adam fox
K’Andre Miller — Jacob Trouba
justin brown — Braden Schneider
Cut off: Kevin Rooney, Patrick Nemeth, Libor Hajek, Greg McKegg, Julien Gauthier, Jonny Brodzinski, Dryden Hunt
Wounded: Samuel Blais (knee)