The pushback from the Lightning was inevitable, and every Ranger acknowledged it after they built a 2-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference Final, but the team did not look ready for it.
The Rangers allowed the Lightning to waltz right back into the series with back-to-back wins at home, including the 4-1 beating the visitors took in Game 4 Tuesday night at Amalie Arena, to knot this best-of-the-East showdown at two-all heading back to the Garden.
The Rangers had a golden opportunity, and they swung and missed, twice. It may have cost them a trip to the Stanley Cup Final.
The Lightning looked like an entirely different team in the last two games, like the reigning back-to-back champions that they are. The Rangers, on the other hand, didn’t look anything like the squad that outscored Tampa Bay 9-4 through Games 1 and 2.
As the Lightning rediscovered their championship-winning formula, the Rangers fell back into habits that plagued them through the start of the season, when goalie Igor Shesterkin carried them to a respectable record as they worked out the kinks in their game.