Rangers rout Lightning to open NHL Eastern Conference finals

The New York Rangers, back in the NHL’s Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2015, thumped the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning 6-2 on Wednesday to open their best-of-seven series.

Filip Chytil scored twice for the Rangers, whose victory on home ice at Madison Square Garden gave them a series lead for the first time in this post-season.

They won each of their two earlier series in seven games.

The Lightning had enjoyed nine days off since closing out the Florida Panthers, and the battle-tested Rangers jumped on them early with a goal from Chris Kreider — off a pass from Mika Zibanejad — 71 seconds into the contest.

Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin and Frank Vatrano all had a goal and an assist while Alexis Lafreniere and Adam Fox each had two assists for New York, who had 37 saves from goalie Igor Shesterkin.

Steven Stamkos had a goal and an assist, Ondrej Palat scored, and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 28 saves for Tampa Bay, who had allowed only three goals in their four-game sweep of the Panthers.

The six goals surrendered by the Lightning were the most they have allowed this post-season and tied the most allowed by Vasilevskiy in a playoff game.

Chytil made it 3-2 in the second period off a pass from Kaapo Kakko behind the net. Chytil beat Vasilevskiy with a one-timer from the right circle to make it 4-2 at 15:43.

Stamkos had tied it 1-1 at 7:18 of the first with a slap shot from the top of the slot.

Vatrano put the Rangers back up, snagging a loose puck and sending a wrist shot over Vasilevskiy’s right shoulder.

Palat pulled the Lightning level again 42 seconds later, but then they ran out of answers.

Panarin made it 5-2 in the first minute of the third period and Zibanejad scored a power-play goal for the final tally.

The winner of the series advances to the Stanley Cup finals, where they’ll play either the Edmonton Oilers or Colorado Avalanche.

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