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 beat Rangers, 4-1, and even the Eastern Conference Finals at two games apiece .

Kucherov received a pass from Ondrej Palat in the middle of the ice, skated to He and Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin put the puck in 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 rebounded from losing the first two games of the series at Madison Square Garden to maintain their bid to become the No. team in nearly 40 years. 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 in the playoffs.

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

Until the end of Vasilevskiy’s shutout attempt, the Rangers hadn’t scored since Chris Kreider’s power play goal put them up 2-0 at 9:44 of the second period of Game 3.

It’s been Tampa Bay since then, with Kucherov and Stamkos scoring to erase 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 from the start of the game.

It was the third playoff goal for Maroon, 34, a fourth-row forward who is aiming for a fourth straight Stanley Cup title after winning with St. Louis in 2019 and then Tampa Bay in 2020 and 2021.

Stamkos’ goal made it 3-0 early in the third period. Palat’s goal with 8.7 seconds left earned him a three-pointer on the night.

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

Rangers played without striker Ryan Strome, who is struggling with a lower-body injury and was scratched after skating in pre-match warm-ups. He suffered the injury Sunday when he exited in the second period after playing just over seven minutes. Rangers forward Filip Chytil dropped just after the middle of the second period on Tuesday after a hit from Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman. He missed the rest of the game with an upper body injury.

The Lightning have gone their seventh straight game without forward Brayden Point, who hasn’t been in the lineup since suffering a lower-body injury in Game 7 of Tampa Bay’s first-round win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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