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Lightning Advance to Stanley Cup Finals, Shut Out Rangers

The Tampa Bay Lightning are the Eastern Conference Champions after they shut out the New York Rangers 2-0. They will either face the Anaheim Ducks or Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Goalie Ben Bishop played some of his best hockey in the playoffs after needing to prove himself after coach John Cooper pulled him in Game 6 when he gave up five goals. He did a complete 180 in this game as he stopped all 22 shots against him for his third shutout during the playoffs.

Bishop only faced 22 shots due to tremendous defense by his teammates. The Lightning remained sharp and greedy with the puck. It shows they are a true contender because the Rangers were not completely a circus show like they were in their previous losses.

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist only faced 25 shots. The defense was semi-strong, but there was no spark on the offense. Even though they did not play like clowns, it was slow and slushy. Once again they relied on Lundqvist, who can only do so much. He did until the third period when Alex Killhorn scored his seventh goal of the playoffs.

That was it. It sparked the Lightning and completely killed the Rangers, who played as if they could not wait to end the game. It somehow became worse when Ondrej Palat scored at 11:17. Madison Square Garden slowly emptied as Lundqvist’s Stanley Cup dreams crashed.

“For whatever reason that was probably the most calm Game 7 I’ve ever been a part of,” exclaimed Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. “And not just for me, but on the bench. Going into the third, we were just loose. We knew we were playing the game the right way, we knew were going to get one.”

The Rangers pulled him with a few minutes left. The goalie could not even watch as his team with an extra skater did nothing to win the game. They did not even manage a shot on goal during that time As the horn blew, Lundqvist slammed his goalie stick on the ice. He skated onto the ice for the handshake with his head hung low. When he raised his head his eyes were closed. A huge blow to a man who works so hard to win games for his team. There are plenty of memes out there that joke about the Rangers only winning because of Lundqvist.

“It’s painful,” stated Lundqvist.

But a look down the ice shows a team that is connected who do not need to rely on the goalie to win. The Lightning won because they played as a team, not because of flukes or a few mistakes. Sure, different players contribute a tad more and Bishop is a great goalie. But they were the better team.

Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh is the latest example why hockey players are the toughest athletes around. He left the game only a few minutes into the game. Coach Alan Vigneault revealed after the game that McDonagh played on a broken foot for a few games.

In June 2013, Boston Bruins center Gregory Campbell sustained a broken leg during a play. He stood up, helped the Bruins kill the penalty, and finished his shift.

In March 2014, Dallas Stars forward Rich Peverley collapsed on the bench during a game. Medics rushed him to the back to perform CPR and shock his heart back to life. The man even asked doctors to allow him back on the ice! Of course, they denied his request, but he returned to the ice three days later!

Despite the long and physical series, the handshake at the end was one of the most notable in recent years. The two teams exchanged many players in a massive trade in December 2014. The amount of respect and friendship between the players led to a heartwarming handshake.

The Stanley Cup Finals begin next Wednesday. The Lightning find out their opponent Saturday night. The Ducks and Blackhawks face off at 8 p.m. Eastern on NBCSN.

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