Barclay Goodrow #21 of the Rangers skates during the first period...

Barclay Goodrow #21 of the Rangers skates during the first period against the Tampa Bay Lightning during Game One of the Eastern Conference Final at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, June 1, 2022. Credit: Jim McIsaac

TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning, for whom he enjoyed some of the happiest moments of his NHL career, the team he bled for, bonded with, and won two Stanley Cups with, stood in Barclay Goodrow’s way as he chased a third straight trip to the Stanley Cup Final Saturday night.

He didn’t care.

Or, at least that’s what he said Friday, the day before the Rangers and Lightning faced each other in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final, with the Rangers trailing in the best-of-seven series, 3-2, and needing to win to force a Game 7 Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.

“I mean, I want to win the Cup,’’ Goodrow said when asked about going up against his old team. “It doesn't really matter which teams you go through. Whether it's these guys, Carolina, Pittsburgh, you know, it doesn't really matter to me.’’

Goodrow was stone-faced as he spoke, which was a different look than he had his first trip to his old home back on New Year's Eve, when the Rangers played the Lightning for the first time in the regular season. That was the day when Goodrow got his second Stanley Cup ring from the Lightning, after having been traded to the Rangers over the summer as part of Tampa Bay cleaning up their salary cap situation.

Goodrow was all smiles when Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper gave him his ring that day, and he ended up scoring two goals that night in the Rangers’ 4-3 shootout win.

The Lightning needed to offload their entire third line from the Stanley Cup team as part of their efforts to get under the NHL’s $81.5 million salary cap, and Goodrow ended up with the Rangers, for the cost of a seventh-round pick in last summer’s draft. Then he signed a six-year, $21.85 million deal to bring the Rangers a mix of grit, experience and leadership to their young team. In training camp, he was named one of six alternate captains.

“He's a leader,’’ Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said Saturday, after the Rangers’ brief optional morning skate. “He's a character. Would you like him to score more goals? Yes, but he's still an important player when he plays out there. You know, he competes. He battles. He helps other players on our team play the game the right way. He talks about it all the time.’’

Gallant backed Goodrow’s assertion that the player is not conflicted in anyway or weirded out by playing against the Lightning. And Goodrow did start a minor melee near the end of Game 1 of the series when he cross-checked Lightning forward Brandon Hagel and players paired off with some throwing punches. Hagel was not a teammate of Goodrow’s in Tampa, but Goodrow did exchange some heated words with former teammate Pat Maroon.

Of course, Goodrow had insights into his old team that the Rangers no doubt found valuable during the series. And he understood, more than any of his current teammates, the enormous challenge the Rangers were facing in trying to extend the series Saturday.

Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy pitched a shutout against the Florida Panthers — the highest-scoring team in the regular season — in the closeout game of the Lightning’s sweep of the Panthers in the last round.

“Obviously they've been there,’’ Goodrow said of Tampa Bay when they are going for the fourth victory of a series. “They know what they need to do to win a game to close out a series.’’

But Goodrow, who before the series began didn’t waffle when he said he would take Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin over Vasilevskiy in any goalie matchup, wasn’t about to spend any time praising his old team for their past accomplishments. He is a Ranger now, and on Saturday, all the Lightning represented to him was the obstacle the Rangers needed to overcome to get where they are trying to go.

“We're completely confident in our group, and we feel if we play our best, then we like our chances,’’ he said. “And it's regardless of what Vasi's numbers say, or what their team numbers are. It comes down to us playing our game and us executing to the best of our abilities.’’

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