TAMPA, Fla. — Ondrej Palat scored with 42 seconds left and the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning beat the New York Rangers 3-2 on Sunday to cut their deficit in the Eastern Conference finals to 2-1.
Palat’s goal, off a nifty pass from Nikita Kucherov, capped a comeback that began after Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider scored power-play goals in a span of just over two minutes in the second period to put the Rangers up 2-0.
Facing the prospect of falling behind 3-0 in a series that began with a pair of losses on the road, the Lightning rallied, with Kucherov scoring on the power play in the second period and Steven Stamkos blistering a shot past goalie Igor Shesterkin from the left circle early in the third.
Game 4 is Tuesday night, with New York still in a position to move within one victory of its first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 2014.
Andrei Vasilevskiy made 28 saves for the Lightning.
Artemi Panarin had two assists for the Rangers, and Adam Fox and Zibanejad had primary helpers on power-play goals resulting from a pair of penalties drawn by Shesterkin in the second period.
Tampa Bay’s Corey Perry was whistled for slashing on the first, and Riley Nash went to penalty box for interference before Kreider’s goal made it 2-0 midway through the period.
Lightning Coach Jon Cooper cited poor puck management and the lack of a sense of urgency as factors in Tampa Bay starting the series slowly following a nine-day layoff the defending champs earned with a second-round sweep of the Presidents Trophy-winning Florida Panthers.
Neither of those were a factor once the Lightning fell behind by two goals Sunday.
Shesterkin finished with 48 saves, but the Rangers wasted an opportunity to regain control of the game when Kucherov drew a four-minute penalty for high-sticking Zibanejad with just over nine minutes left.
In fact, New York lost the man-advantage when Jacob Trouba subsequently was penalized for tripping Tampa Bay’s Alex Killorn.
Shesterkin made save after save to keep the Rangers from falling behind, but couldn’t get his glove up high enough to stop Palat’s winner.
WEST FINALS: Nazem Kadri is a major reason why the Colorado Avalanche are one win away from the franchise’s first trip to the Stanley Cup Final in more than two decades.
They’ll have to take that step without him.
Kadri is out for at least the rest of the Western Conference final against the Edmonton Oilers after being injured on an illegal hit by Evander Kane in Game 3. The Avalanche are up 3-0 and go for the sweep Monday night in Edmonton.
“He’s out for the series, possibly longer,” Coach Jared Bednar said. “We should find that out in the next few days. My thoughts are the same on the hit: It’s a dangerous hit.”
On Sunday, the NHL suspended Kane for Game 4.
Kadri has six goals and eight assists in this year’s playoffs. He didn’t return after Kane sent him crashing left arm-first into the boards 1:06 into Saturday’s game. The hit was reviewed and called a major penalty.
“I don’t like it,” Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said of the hit. “Those are the ones that kind of gives you the chills down your spine, and you’re taught from a young age that you don’t do that, and especially in that distance from the boards. It’s a dangerous play, and, yeah, I don’t know what else to say.”
Unsurprisingly given the shroud of secrecy in hockey, especially during the playoffs, the Avalanche have not revealed what Kadri’s injury is.