TAMPA, Fla. – Henrik Lundqvist had lots of help in another season-saving effort for the New York Rangers.
The star goalie stopped 36 shots, and Derick Brassard had a hat trick for the Presidents' Trophy winners — who forced Game 7 in the Eastern Conference finals with a 7-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night.
The Rangers, who overcame a 3-1 series deficit to oust the Washington Capitals in the second round, improved to 4-0 in elimination games this postseason. Lundqvist is 9-1 with his team's season on the line since the start of last year's playoffs, and 15-3 under those circumstances dating to Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern quarterfinals against Ottawa.
He'll have a chance to build on that superb record in Game 7 on Friday night in New York.
"We capitalized early on our chances, and after that our goaltender was asked to make some big saves, which he did," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "But in the third period, with our season on the line, we probably played our best period of this series so far. We wanted a chance and we got a chance."
Brassard also had two assists for the Rangers, who evened the series 3-3. Keith Yandle, James Sheppard and J.T. Miller also scored on Ben Bishop, who was pulled with New York leading 5-1 with just under 13 minutes remaining. Rick Nash added a power-play goal against Andrei Vasilevskiy and Brassard had an empty-netter with 1:41 to go to complete his hat trick.
"Every time we're in an elimination game, that's the way we play," Brassard said. "We're just going to go out there at home and try to play our best game."
New York scored five times in the third period, turning a tight game into a rout. Miller's coming off a pass from Brassard after Bishop rejected Nash's shot from the right, as well as Brassard's rebound from left of the net, gave the Rangers a 3-1 cushion following a scoreless and sloppy second period.
Nash said the key to breaking in open "was not taking our foot off the gas."
"This is a really skilled offensive team that if you sit back, they're going to take it to you," Nash said. "Especially those top two lines. They've got some great skill. Getting that third goal was huge."
Lundqvist was outstanding before giving up a pair of third-period goals to Nikita Kucherov. Ryan Callahan scored for Tampa Bay in the first period, but the Rangers did a good job of limiting opportunities for Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, who only got off two shots after scoring in four consecutive games.
"The third period we weren't ourselves," Stamkos said. "No excuses. … We're not going to sit here and sulk and feel sorry for ourselves. We have to win a game on the road to get to the Cup finals. We're confident with our ability to win on the road."