TAMPA — The Lightning have learned plenty during their recent Stanley Cup runs. And there’s one lesson that never changes: the fourth win in a series is the hardest to get.
Holding a 3-2 Eastern Conference final series lead, Tampa Bay will have the chance Saturday night to knock out the Rangers.
“We obviously know the fourth one is always the hardest one to win,” said veteran forward Pat Maroon, who is inching toward his fourth consecutive Cup final (in 2019 he won with the Blues). “Our mindset (Saturday) has to be the same as the last three games, just go out there and try to win a hockey game, for one, but doing it the right way of playing hard and focusing on what we can control.”
Tampa Bay is 10-5 over the past three postseasons in games where the team could clinch a series.
It’s been 40 years since a team has gone on a dynasty run of winning at least three consecutive Cups, and the Lightning are trying to become the fourth franchise in the league’s history to do so, joining the Maple Leafs (1947-49, 1962-64), Canadiens (1956-60, 1976-79) and the Islanders (1980-83).
Maroon knows opportunities like this aren’t a given year after year. And he feels fortunate to be in another “really good situation” to advance to the final.
“If you look around the league, a lot of people would love to be in our situation right now,” he said. “Even if we were down 3-2, people would love to be in our situation. It’s just one of those things where we’re the team that’s playing in June right now and we’ve had that the last few years and it’s been pretty impressive. But there’s still a lot of work to do right now and we still have a series to win here first before we get to our ultimate goal.”
Coach Jon Cooper isn’t distracted by what’s potentially on the horizon either, knowing not to overlook a desperate Rangers team.
“We’re here to win the series and we don’t care when we win it, we just want to win it,” Cooper said. “We have a great opportunity (Saturday) to do that ... but just because it is an elimination game doesn’t mean we’re going to knock (New York) out. If we don’t bring our best, it’ll be trouble for us because I know the Rangers will bring their best.”
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Cooper said Friday after the team’s flight home to Tampa that defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who missed most of the third period in Game 5, should be “OK” for Saturday’s potential clincher.
Cooper also said he would have to wait until game day to determine if Brayden Point, who hasn’t played since suffering a lower-body injury against Toronto in Game 7 of the opening round, could crack the lineup.
What about the end-of-game penalties?
A scrum erupted after the final buzzer at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night.
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos dropped gloves with Rangers forward Alexis Lafrenière, which resulted in fighting penalties. Meanwhile, New York defenseman Adam Fox was called for slashing and Tampa Bay defenseman Erik Cernak was assessed a roughing penalty. Rangers forward Ryan Strome was also called for roughing.
The penalties, however, will not carry over to Game 6. Penalties called at the end of periods are usually for record keeping/bookkeeping purposes.
The same rule applies for regular-season games that go to overtime. If a player is assessed a penalty in the final second of the extra period, they are still allowed to participate in the shootout if overtime ends in a tie.
Game 1 – Lightning at Rangers, 6-2 loss
Game 2 - Lightning at Rangers, 3-2 loss
Game 3 – Rangers at Lightning, 3-2 win
Game 4 – Rangers at Lightning, 4-1 win
Game 5 – Lightning at Rangers, 3-1 win
Game 6 – Rangers at Lightning, 8 p.m. Saturday (Lightning lead series 3-2)
Game 7 – Lightning at Rangers, 8 p.m. Tuesday * if necessary
Radio: All games 970-AM
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