The Tampa Bay Lightning delivered on a promise to play with a greater sense of urgency, storming back in the Eastern Conference finals against the New York Rangers and keeping their bid for a third straight Stanley Cup title alive.
Nikita Kucherov scored on a breakaway and Andrei Vasilevskiy had 33 saves Tuesday night, helping the two-time defending NHL champions shut down the Rangers 4-1 and even the best-of-seven series at two games apiece.
"We've got ourselves squared up in this series. It's great, much better than the position we were in a couple days ago. But this is where it gets down to the really tough stuff," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said.
These next couple of games, we have to go on the road and we have to find a way to win a game in their barn," Stamkos added. "We're looking forward to that challenge, but I really like where our game is now compared to where it was a couple days ago
Kucherov took a pass from Ondrej Palat in the middle of the ice and skated in on goaltender Igor Shesterkin to give the Lightning a two-goal lead just over 13 minutes into the second period.
With Vasilevskiy back on his game following a slow start to the series, that turned out to be more than enough offensive support to hold off a Rangers team that's suddenly found it difficult to score
Vasilevskiy stopped 28 of 30 shots to win Game 3 and was even better Tuesday night, when he extended a stretch in which he did not give up a goal to nearly 67 minutes before New York's Artemi Panarin scored on the power play at 16:27 of the third period.
Until Vasilevskiy's bid for a shutout ended, the Rangers hadn't scored since Chris Kreider's power-play goal put them up 2-0 at 9:44 of the second period in Game 3.
It was the third goal of the playoffs for Maroon, a 34-year-old, fourth-line forward who's chasing a fourth consecutive Stanley Cup title after winning with St. Louis in 2019 and signing with Tampa Bay before the following season.
Stamkos' goal built the lead to 3-0 early in the third period. Palat added an empty-netter with 8.7 seconds remaining, finishing with a goal and two assists.