Lightning-Rangers Game 2 report card: Streak ends, series goes on

Turns out, history won’t win this series. The NHL-record 17 straight times the Lightning won playoff games immediately following a loss didn’t mean a thing in the 18th.

Whether they can be beaten four times over seven games remains to be seen. We know this much: The Rangers aren’t simply going to bend to their will. So if the Lightning hope to survive the conference final and continue their quest for a third straight Stanley Cup, they’re going to have to outwork them on the ice.

And they’ve dug themselves quite a hole. After a 3-2 loss in which the Rangers attacked them with speed and took advantage of their turnovers, the Lightning find themselves two losses from elimination heading to Game 3 Sunday in Tampa.

Two games into the series that will send the winner to the Stanley Cup Final, we are left with far more questions than answers:

Did the Lightning lose their edge after so many days between series? Are they trying to do too much, pinching too often, making too many east-west passes?

Are they paying the price for three consecutive long postseasons? For a goaltender who has not missed a playoff game during that stretch? For a system that takes a tremendous toll on their bodies?

Do they need to go back to playing 12 forwards and six defensemen against the younger, fresher Rangers? Do they need that extra forward to be Brayden Point?

Is the strategy of playing defense first, taking away the middle of the ice and staying patient taking the jump out of their game? Do they need to push harder on offense?

Have the Rangers found a weakness in goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy? The Lightning seemed to find a few answers after pulling Vasilevskiy for an extra attacker over the final four minutes.

They got pucks behind New York’s defense, won battles and got shots to the net. Nick Paul scored to bring Tampa Bay within a goal, and it came within inches of tying the score during the frenzied final minute.

But ultimately, it was too little, too late. Two more games like this, and they will lose their shot at history.