The Tampa Bay Lightning have officially returned to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Lightning took control of the game in the opening minutes with a goal from Pat Maroon and never trailed in a 4-1 win over the New York Rangers in Game 4.
Star forwards Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos had one goal each, while winger Ondrej Palat was also a force with one goal and two assists. It was the third straight game in which Kucherov had scored a goal and it was also his sixth point during that streak.
Additionally, goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy proved to be a brick wall in net, as he stopped 33 of the 34 shots he faced. Vasilevskiy didn’t allow a goal until Artemi Panarin scored on a rebound with just 3:33 left in the final period.
Slow starts have plagued the Lightning throughout the series, but that wasn’t the case in Game 4.
Barely 2:38 into the game, Maroon opened the scoring by returning the rebound on a first shot from defender Zach Bogosian. Bogosian headed for the net, completely stripped Rangers defenseman Justin Braun with a nice move and put the puck on goaltender Igor Shesterkin to set up Maroon’s count.
The Lightning added a goal in the second period through Kucherov. The Tampa Bay winger came on his own against Shesterkin and fired a low shot into the back of the net. Palat was the star of the game, as he sent a terrific pass to Kucherov from center ice on a rope to set up the breakaway.
Palat will once again impose its will at the start of the third period. During a scrimmage on the boards, Palat outplayed Rangers forward Mika Zibanejad and skated the puck into the face-off circle, where he landed a huge shot. Shesterkin stopped Palat’s shot, but Stamkos deposited the juicy rebound into the net.
It proved to be a tale of two towns in the Eastern Conference Finals as the win gives the Lightning an 8-1 home record in the 2022 playoffs. Meanwhile, the Rangers are 2-7 out of Madison Square Garden in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Eastern Conference Finals are now tied 2-2 as the series returns to New York for the deciding Game 5 on Thursday.