The Tampa Bay Lightning held on for their second consecutive overtime win against the New York Islanders on Friday night at the Barclays Center. The 2-1 win puts the Bolts in a solid three games to one lead for the second series of these 2016 NHL Playoffs.
This game was noted for yet another sluggish start by the Lightning and the Islanders made them pay early with their physical play, overwhelming with their strong forecheck and hitting. The Islanders ultimately had 45 hits to the Lightning's 29 by the end of the game.
The Bolts fell behind early, with Mike Blunden taking a roughing penalty against New York's Ryan Strome. On the ensuing power play, Nikolay Kulemin, Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo set up for a tic-tac-toe passing play in front of Ben Bishop and the penalty killing unit. Okposo finally took a pass and fired a quick wrist shot past Ben Bishop to put the Islanders up 1-0 at 4:20.
Besides this early goal, Ben Bishop stood tall and stopped 15 of 16 shots in the first period.
"You've got to tip your hat to Bish," said head coach Jon Cooper. "He saved us in the first."
The Bolts could have folded at 14:41 when Ryan Callahan was called on a double-minor for roughing on Thomas Hickey. Instead, the penalty killing units came up huge in allowing only two shots over four minutes shorthanded.
"There's no real panic button anymore," Cooper said about his team's resiliency in the face of adversity.
That swagger they carried from the massive penalty kill carried over to the second period, where they again staved off periods of overwhelming play from the Islanders. But for the most part, the play by the Lightning started to gradually improve throughout the rest of the game.
There was an opportunity for the Lightning to strike early in the second period, as Thomas Greiss hobbled to the bench with a skate issue. That brought in Islanders backup goaltender J.F. Berube at the start of a power play. The Bolts were unable to take advantage, however, ultimately going 0-for-3 on the power play for the evening.
The third period was scoreless, but was not without some drama. As the two teams came out of the locker room from the second intermission, it was discovered that a second of the boards was in need of repair. That caused a very long delay and perhaps sucked the life out of an Islanders crowd that was still feeling good about being ahead 1-0.
Finally, at 7:49 of the third period, the Bolts broke through. Nikita Kucherov, who has proved once again he can step up for the Bolts when they need him most, scored on a beautiful short side shot past Thomas Greiss. The lone assist went to Tyler Johnson, though the entire line had a fantastic shift leading up to the goal.
"He has proven he is not a one-hit wonder," head coach Jon Cooper said of Kucherov.
Victor Hedman almost made a costly mistake in the dying seconds of the game, sending Nikolay Kulemin on a partial breakaway. Ben Bishop proved why he is a strong contender for the Lightning MVP when he calmly poked the puck off his stick to prevent a shot.
And then we went to overtime - the 14th overtime game of the 2016 NHL Playoffs. It proved to be the shortest overtime period of the playoffs, however, as Jason Garrison used his cannon of a shot from the point to blast the game winner past Thomas Greiss at 1:34. The assists went to Andrej Sustr and Ondrej Palat.
Though they have a series lead, the Bolts know it will be a tough game they try to close out the series at 3 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.
Said Cooper: "We know we've got to be better."
- Nikita Kucherov notched his eighth goal of the postseason, remaining the top goal scorer of the playoffs.
- Ben Bishop leads all playoff goaltenders with seven wins.
- Victor Hedman had 27:46 of ice time, leading all players on the ice for the evening.
- Defenseman Luke Witkowski only had 2:14 of ice time.
- J.T. Brown, Erik Condra, Jonathan Marchessault, Nikita Nesterov, Steven Stamkos, Anton Stralman, Matt Taormina and the Black Aces were the scratches for the evening.