Tampa Bay Defends Its Home Ice to Even the Series

TAMPA, Fla. — Nikita Kucherov scored on a breakaway and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 33 saves Tuesday night to help the Lightning shut down the Rangers, 4-1, and even the Eastern Conference finals at two games apiece.

Kucherov took a pass from Ondrej Palat in the middle of the ice, skated towardRangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin and put the puck by him to give Tampa Bay a two-goal lead just over 13 minutes into the second period.

Pat Maroon and Steven Stamkos also beat Shesterkin, while Palat added an empty-net goal for the Lightning, who have rebounded from losing the first two games of the series at Madison Square Garden to keep their bid to become the first team in nearly 40 years to win three consecutive Stanley Cup titles alive.

Game 5 is Thursday night in New York, where the Rangers won Games 1 and 2 and are 8-1 this postseason.

Vasilevskiy stopped 28 of 30 shots to win Game 3 and was even better Tuesday, when he extended a shutout streak to nearly 67 minutes before Artemi Panarin scored on the power play 16 minutes 27 seconds into the third period.

Until Vasilevskiy’s bid for a shutout ended, the Rangers hadn’t scored since Chris Kreider’s power-play goal put them ahead 2-0 at 9:44 of the second period in Game 3.

It has been all Tampa Bay since then, with Kucherov and Stamkos scoring to wipe out the Game 3 deficit before Palat’s game-winner in the final minute.

The Lightning started faster Tuesday night, scoring on Maroon’s rebound just 2:38 into the game.

It was the third goal of the playoffs for Maroon, 34, a fourth-line forward who is chasing a fourth consecutive Stanley Cup title after winning with St. Louis in 2019 and then Tampa Bay in 2020 and 2021.

Stamkos’s goal built the lead to 3-0 early in the third period. Palat’s goal with 8.7 seconds remaining gave him a three-point night.

Shesterkin, who faced 51 shots in Game 3, stopped 27 of 30 shots Tuesday.

The Rangers played without forward Ryan Strome, who has a lower-body injury and was scratched after skating in pregame warmups. He was injured Sunday, when he exited in the second period after playing only a little over seven minutes. Rangers forward Filip Chytil left just past the midpoint of the second period on Tuesday after a hit by Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman. He missed the rest of the game with an upper-body injury.

The Lightning played for the seventh straight game without forward Brayden Point, who has been out of the lineup since suffering a lower-body injury during Game 7 of Tampa Bay’s first-round victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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