Derek Stepan (Al Bello/Getty Images)
It took nearly two periods, but the Eastern Conference final has its first goal. After playing hero for the New York Rangers in Game 7 against the Washington Capitals, Derek Stepan found the back of the net in similar fashion to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
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.
The goal is eerily similar to the one Stepan scored to win the Rangers' second-round series against the Washington Capitals. That goal, the overtime tally in Game 7, was scored when Stepan found a loose puck that had resulted from a blocked shot by the Capitals.
Stepan's game-opening tally is the fourth of the post-season for the 24-year-old and his ninth point in 13 playoff games. During the Rangers' run to the Stanley Cup final last season, Stepan managed five goals and 15 points in 24 games.