(Reuters) - Nikita Kucherov skated through the New York defense and slapped home the game-winning goal as the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Rangers 6-5 in overtime on Wednesday to move ahead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference final series.
Kucherov got the puck in his own zone, took it up the ice and fired in the decisive score at 3:33 in the extra session, giving the Lightning a 2-1 advantage in the series.
”As soon as I got in the zone I tried to shoot, I didn’t see how the puck went in,” Kucherov told reporters. “We knew this was our game, we didn’t want to lose it in front of our fans.”
In a back-and-forth game, Tampa Bay fell behind 2-0 in the first period then scored four straight goals before a Rangers rally forced overtime.
Jesper Fast netted twice for New York, who trailed 5-4 before Dan Boyle scored with less than two minutes left.
Ondrej Palat added two goals for Tampa Bay, who have scored six goals in back-to-back wins heading into Friday’s Game Four in Tampa Bay.
”I prefer to play this way if we keep winning,“ said Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper. ”I think we’ve got a pretty quick team, and they have a quick team.
”I don’t know how it looks to everybody else, I don’t know how it looks on TV, but when you’re standing there, it is, pardon the pun, it is lightning fast.”
Henrik Lundqvist finished with 33 saves for the Rangers, who had to fight back from 3-1 down in their second round series against Washington to reach the conference final.
Derick Brassard and Ryan McDonagh also scored for the Rangers, who battled until the final shot zipped past Lundqvist.
“For some reason I couldn’t pick it up,” Lundqvist said of Kucherov’s goal. ”It comes at me and looks like it’s coming towards me, and then I‘m just late reacting.
”It’s a tough one, it really is.”
Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Rutherford