The match-up is officially set for the 2015 National Hockey League (NHL) Stanley Cups Finals. The first team to earn its way into this years final was the Tampa Bay Lightning as the representative from the Eastern Conference. This will be the team’s second opportunity to play for The Cup, which they claimed in 2004 after a hard-fought seven-game series versus the Calgary Flames.
In the conference finals, the Lightning came up against the New York Rangers, the top-seeded team in the league. After taking a 3-2 series lead going into Tampa Bay for a chance to clinch the series and play for the league championship, the Lightning were unable to close out the series with a big lopsided loss at home. As a result of the Lightning’s disappointing loss, they would have to earn its way into the finals on the Rangers’ home ice at Madison Square Garden.
Thanks in large part to a stellar goal-tending effort by goalie Ben Bishop, the Rangers’ offense was completely shut down after 22 shots on goal, allowing the Lightning to claim victory with two third-period goals. Alex Killorn got the scoring started with his 7th goal of the playoffs at 1:54 into the third period with Matthew Carle and Valtteri Filppula earning assists on the play. At the 11:17 mark, Ondrej Palat scored the team’s second goal on passes from Tyler Johnson and Ben Bishop. From that point on, the Lightning were able to keep Rangers sharpshooters at bay to secure the 2-0 victory.
The effort by Bishop was in sharp contrast to his game six exploits where he was pulled from the game after giving up five goals in the 7-3 loss. In this one, he was able withstand two power-play opportunities in the second period for his second 2-0 shut-out of the series.
The following day, the Chicago Blackhawks scored four goals in the first two periods to hold off the top-seeded Anaheim Ducks 5-3. The victory gave the Blackhawks a 4-3 series win and earned them the opportunity to represent the Western Conference versus the Lightning in the Stanley Cups finals scheduled to get under way on June 3 @ 8:00 pm EDT. As the number two-seed from the Eastern Conference, the Lightning will have home ice advantage over the third-seeded Blackhawks. These two teams figure to be evenly matched based on a 1-1 series record on the season with both teams claiming home victories.