UPDATED: Bolts’ Tyler Johnson strikes again with hat trick in Game 2

Tampa's Tyler Johnson #9 of celebrates his second goal against the Rangers in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final Monday. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

With eight goals in 14 games, Lightning center Tyler Johnson led all playoff scorers through two rounds. And he continued the hot streak Monday in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final by scoring the first goal of the night – and then Tampa’s second of the game – to give the Bolts a 2-1 lead on the New York Rangers after 20 minutes of play.

Johnson’s ninth of the post-season was a shorthanded goal 5:38 into the opening frame after a turnover from former Lightning star Martin St-Louis: Read more

Why discipline will be key going forward for the New York Rangers

Marc Staal and Ryan Callahan.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Rangers managed to take Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final from the Tampa Bay Lightning without ever really looking as if they were in too much danger, but if they want to walk away with their second straight Stanley Cup final berth, New York will have to stay out of the penalty box.

While it may seem overly simplistic to say the Rangers stand a better chance at winning the series if they’re playing without giving the Lightning the extra man, the way the series is bound to shake out is that if New York can keep play at 5-on-5, they’ll have vastly improved their chances of moving to the next round. Read more

Questions surround Lightning’s Boyle, Rangers’ Zuccarello ahead of Game 2

Mats Zuccarello (Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)

With Game 2 of the Eastern Conference final fast approaching, the status of Tampa Bay’s Brian Boyle and New York’s Mats Zuccarello remain in question.

Neither Boyle nor Zuccarello suited up for Game 1, but there’s potential for both to appear in this series at some point. For Boyle, it could even be as soon as Game 2, but there has been no confirmation from Lightning coach Jon Cooper that will be the case. Read more

Which depth players could make a difference in the conference finals?

J.T. Brown

Stars always step up in the post-season, but the difference most years between a team that makes it to the finals and a team that falls shy of the last round is generally the play of their depth players. In some years, the depth players can even make all the difference. Take Darren McCarty or Mike Rupp, for instance.

McCarty, never the most offensively skilled of players, had one of the greatest games of his career in the Western Conference final in 2001-02. In Game 1 of the Western final that post-season, McCarty, who had scored just five goals and 12 points in 62 regular season games, notched a hat trick to help the Red Wings take the opening contest. Detroit wouldn’t look back, going on to their third Stanley Cup victory in three years.

For Rupp, it was one goal, the first playoff goal of his career, which made him a depth hero for the New Jersey Devils in 2002-03. Over the course of his entire 610 game career, Rupp scored only 54 goals. Having never scored a playoff goal in his career, Rupp found himself in the Devils lineup for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

In Game 7, Rupp opened the scoring 2:22 into the first period. He assisted on the Devils’ second goal to make it 2-0. And with time winding down, it was Rupp who found Jeff Friesen and got the primary assist on the goal that made it 3-0. To this day, Rupp remains the only player in NHL history to have his first career post-season goal be the Stanley Cup winner.

With only two rounds left, who are the depth players that could step up for the remaining clubs? Read more

Memorial Cup preview: How each team wins or loses

Leon Draisaitl (Melissa Baecker/Getty Images)

We know our four teams for the Memorial Cup now. Thanks to Oshawa’s ousting of Connor McDavid and the Erie Otters, the Generals will represent the OHL, joining Kelowna of the WHL, plus Quebec (the hosts) and Rimouski in the QMJHL. So who is favored to win it all? Ah, that’s a thorny question in a tournament that often surprises. But let’s take a look at what you should know about the four worthy squads in contention.

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Dominic Moore the Game 1 hero as Rangers take 1-0 lead in Eastern Conference final

Dominic Moore (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

In Game 7 against the Washington Capitals, Dominic Moore did everything but score for the New York Rangers. His forechecking was formidable, he found multiple opportunities, mustered three shots on goal, but didn’t find the score sheet. But in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final, it was Moore, again having an incredible outing, who came up big when the Rangers needed it most.

The Lightning and Rangers had battled to a 1-1 tie through most of the contest when Moore, who had been serving a minor penalty for tripping less than a minute earlier, cut to the net and had teammate Kevin Hayes’ centering attempt ricochet off his shin pads and behind Tampa Bay netminder Ben Bishop. Moore’s goal made it 2-1 for the Rangers, a score that would hold as New York took a 1-0 series lead. Read more

Watch Rangers’ Derek Stepan score buzzer-beating second period goal to open scoring against Lightning

Derek Stepan (Al Bello/Getty Images)

It took almost two full periods, but the Eastern Conference final has its opening goal thanks to New York Rangers center Derek Stepan.

After the Lightning and Rangers traded chances for the bulk of the first two periods with both New York’s Henrik Lundqvist and Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop turning aside every test that came their way, it was Stepan who finally broke through with time winding down in the second frame.

Stepan, the Game 7 overtime hero against the Washington Capitals, was in the right place at the right time once again and collected the puck following Chris Kreider’s attempt on Bishop. With Bishop down, Stepan was able to shovel the puck past the Tampa Bay netminder with less than 15 seconds remaining.

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Ducks, Bolts dominate five biggest NHL playoff breakouts through two rounds

Hampus Lindholm (Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

Through the first two rounds of the NHL playoffs, we’ve seen some things we expected to see: clutch performances from Hawks stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews; excellent goaltending from Rangers cornerstone Henrik Lundqvist and Montreal’s Carey Price; and of course, controversial calls from the officials. But one of the best elements of the post-season are the surprise factors that emerge – the rookies who step to the fore, or the youngsters who not only realize the success many predicted for them, but surpass expectations. And although we’re only halfway through the Stanley Cup tournament, there are already a number of those types of suprises. Here are the top five playoff breakouts thus far:

5. Matt Beleskey, Ducks. You expected to see Corey Perry leading the Ducks in goals this year. You didn’t expect the person immediately below him on Anaheim’s list of top scorers to be 26-year-old winger Beleskey, who never had scored more than 11 goals in a single regular-season before he set career highs in goals (22) and points (32) with Anaheim this season. The 26-year-old was used sparingly in the opening round against Winnipeg, but found his scoring form in the second round against Calgary, scoring one goal in all five games vs. the Flames. Every post-season goal he scores from this point on is making the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent more money on the open market this summer. Read more