NHL Ondrej Palat scores in final minute; Lightning top Rangers in Game 3

The Tampa Bay Lightning showed they aren’t willing to hand over their crown without a fight.

Ondrej Palat scored the go-ahead goal with 41.6 seconds remaining in the third period, lifting the two-time reigning Stanley Cup-champion Lightning to a 3-2 victory over the visiting New York Rangers on Sunday in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Tampa Bay capped a spirited rally from a two-goal deficit after Nikita Kucherov’s nifty backhanded feed found Palat deep in the right circle. Palat’s shot sailed inside the near post for his sixth goal of the playoffs and franchise-best 10th career game-winning goal in the postseason.

“I think, for everybody, it’s important to step up and elevate your game, mine as well,” said Kucherov, who collected one goal and two assists on Sunday.

“You’re down 2-0. You’re playing on home ice. You want to play better than you did in the first two, and I think as a group we did a good job tonight.”

Captain Steven Stamkos scored and set up a goal, and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 28 saves for the Lightning, who have won five straight home games and trimmed the Rangers’ lead to 2-1 in the best-of-seven series. Game 4 is on Tuesday night in Tampa.

New York’s Mika Zibanejad recorded a power-play goal and an assist and Chris Kreider also tallied with the man advantage. Igor Shesterkin turned aside 48 shots and Artemi Panarin notched a pair of assists for the Rangers, who fell to 2-6 on the road in the playoffs.

“It’s tough, but I wouldn’t say we let it get away because they played really well,” New York coach Gerard Gallant said. “Again, we could have stole it tonight and been up 3-0.”

Rangers forward Ryan Strome sustained a lower-body injury early in the second period. He returned for one shift before retreating to the locker room. He did not return.

“He came back for one shift and wasn’t good enough. We’ll know more tomorrow,” Gallant said.

New York was nursing a 2-1 lead before Corey Perry’s diagonal feed found Stamkos, whose one-timer from the top of the left circle caromed off the crossbar and into the net at 1:22 of the third. Stamkos’ goal was his sixth of the playoffs.

“At that point you either fold up and just hope out there or you go out and do it,” Stamkos said. “I thought we pushed the pace, and I thought we did a great job of executing the game plan in the third.”

Defenseman Adam Fox sent a diagonal feed from the point to Zibanejad, who wired a shot from the left circle that sailed past Vasilevskiy to open the scoring at 7:37 of the second period. Zibanejad’s 10th goal of the postseason was his NHL-leading sixth on the power play, tying Adam Graves (1996) for the franchise record in a single postseason.

Kreider doubled the advantage just more than two minutes later after cleaning up a loose puck on the doorstep. Kreider’s 10th goal of these playoffs boosted his career total to 34, tying Hall of Famer Rod Gilbert for the franchise record.

Kucherov halved the deficit at 10:50 of the second after his blast from a sharp angle deep in the right circle handcuffed Shesterkin. Kucherov’s goal was his sixth of these playoffs and franchise-record 50th of his career in the postseason.

“The guys stuck with it tonight,” Tampa Bay forward Patrick Maroon said. “That’s just one though, so we’ve got to keep battling here. It’s going to be a long series.”

–Field Level Media

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