Kaapo Kakko #24 of the Rangers celebrates his first period goal...

Kaapo Kakko #24 of the Rangers celebrates his first period goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during Game Two of the Eastern Conference Final at Madison Square Garden on Friday, June 3, 2022. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Rangers are two victories away from going to the Stanley Cup Final after holding serve in the first two games in the Eastern Conference Final, stunning the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-2, in Game 2 on Friday night at Madison Square Garden.

Goals by K’Andre Miller, Kaapo Kakko and Mika Zibanejad gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. The series now shifts to Tampa for Game 3 on Sunday afternoon at Amalie Arena.

The Rangers withstood a goal by Nick Paul with Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy off the ice that cut the Lightning’s deficit to 3-2 with 2:02 remaining in regulation.

“I think it’s really exciting,’’ Rangers defenseman Adam Fox (two assists) said of winning the first two games at the Garden. “But you know, we were on the other side of it when we were down 2-0 [to the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round]. So I think it’s a good lesson for us not to take our foot off the gas.

“Going on the road here is obviously a challenge to a team that has had a lot of success in the playoffs the past few years. But . . . we’re learning along the way, and I think we’ve done a better job of playing on the road as the playoffs have gone along.’’

The Rangers ended the Lightning’s streak of 17 straight wins following a loss in the playoffs dating to 2019. But the Blueshirts didn’t seem overly impressed with their feat.

“This team obviously had a good playoff streak of not losing back-to-back games, but you know, that’s not really in our minds when we’re coming to the games,’’ Fox said. “We’re not thinking about what streaks teams have or how they’ve done earlier. It’s right now, and we’re just trying to bring it day in and day out.’’

After taking advantage of a rusty Lightning squad in a 6-2 victory in Game 1 on Wednesday — Tampa Bay had not played in eight days after sweeping the Florida Panthers in the second round — the Rangers expected the Lightning to be much better in Game 2.

The Rangers were the better team for most of Game 2, though. They peppered Vasilevskiy for most of the second period until Tampa Bay found its legs at the end of the period, and then goalie Igor Shesterkin was there to shut the door.

Shesterkin (29 saves) did allow Paul’s extra-skater goal, but he made two huge saves on Steve Stamkos in the final minute.

“They weren’t going to quit,’’ Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said of Tampa Bay. “It was 3-1, and we were playing pretty good hockey up till that last 10 minutes. We made it 3-1, we played a great game, and after that, they took it to us and they stepped their game up. And then you know, Shesty made some great saves to keep that win, obviously.’’

Nikita Kucherov’s power-play goal at 2:41 of the first period gave the Lightning the lead, but Miller’s goal at 5:59 of the first period tied it at 1-1. Miller fired a shot that was blocked by Tampa Bay’s Brandon Hagel, but Miller was able to retrieve the puck at the top of the slot and lift a wrist shot over Vasilevskiy for his second goal of the playoffs.

Kakko gave the Rangers the lead after slipping away from a defender and drifting to the back post. Fox faked a shot, then sent a pass to Kakko, who deflected it in at 17:32 for his second goal of the playoffs.

“It was kind of a little broken play,’’ Fox said. “I just tried to get that defenseman to move out of the lane a little bit. And great tip by Kaapo there.’’

The Rangers got the insurance goal they were looking for when Zibanejad beat Vasilevskiy with a wicked wrist shot from the left wing at 1:21 of the third period after taking a pass from Fox.

Seconds earlier, Zibanejad and Frank Vatrano had entered the Tampa Bay zone on a two-on-one and Zibanejad passed to Vatrano, whose shot missed the net. But the Rangers kept the puck in the zone until Kucherov got it and turned it over to Chris Kreider, who gave it to Fox, who gave it to Zibanejad.

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