The Lightning opened a weekend back-to-back with a 1-0 road victory over the New York Islanders. The goalies stole the show tonight, keeping the game scoreless all the way to the shootout. Victor Hedman was the only player on either team to find the net, finally giving the Lightning the win in the first round of the shootout.
The game was even in terms of shots and expected goals for most of the night. Neither team ever established dominance and both had plenty of chances during regulation. But this game was all about Thomas Greiss and Andrei Vasilevskiy, with Vasy coming out ahead at the very end.
The game started slowly. The Isles got the first scoring chance of the game a couple minutes in but couldn’t take advantage. Both teams seemed to lose track of the puck as it sat in the slot directly in front of the net. Dan Girardi was first to find it and for some reason did a belly flop on top the puck, squirting it away from the crease; not the technique I would have expected, but it worked.
The next chance came to the Lightning and was much better quality. Brayden Point forced a turnover in the neutral zone and carried in on a 2-on-1 rush with Tyler Johnson. The Isles defender played the pass so Point hit the breaks, dragged across to the slot, and got a good shot on Greiss. The Isles goalie was up to the test and saved a rebound shot from Point as well.
Seven minutes into the game, the Isles got the first stretch of sustained pressure for either team. But even with the puck in the offensive zone for a while, they couldn’t generate much offense. The Lightning responded with a great combination play from Steven Stamkos and Yanni Gourde. Gourde dropped the puck to the captain in the corner and broke for the net. Stamkos shook Josh Bailey in the corner put a pretty pass on Gourde’s stick at the back door. But Greiss was again up to the challenge.
Midway through the period, Mikhail Sergachev crashed awkwardly into the boards and skated off slowly but was able to return to the game without missing a shift.
The Isles created their best chance of the period on the rush. Ryan Pulock fired a shot on Vasilevskiy who gave up a thicc rebound in the slot. Michael Dal Colle put it right back on net and Vasy made two consecutive saves to keep the Isles off the board. The rebound was poorly placed but the Lightning defense also did a poor job of picking up Dal Colle so the blamed was shared for the near goal.
The pace picked up toward the end of the period. First, Nikita Kucherov got a good look on a set play from a faceoff. After some extended pressure, he drew a penalty as the Isles tried to exit the zone.
The Lightning got some great looks early in the power play but couldn’t get anything past Greiss. Kuch then wasted the last 45 seconds of the penalty by taking a tripping penalty and evening things at 4-on-4. Neither team was able to generate much during that time and the Bolts killed the Isles penalty with relative ease.
Before the end of the period, each team got a great chance but couldn’t convert. First, Tampa got a 3-on-1 but Kucherov passed into Ondrej Palat’s skates and they didn’t get a shot. Then the Isles got a clean breakaway for Pulock. He created some room going to the backhand but couldn’t beat Vasilevskiy.
At the end of the period, the Lightning held a slight lead in both 5v5 and all situations expected goals.
The second period looked like it was played in a literal swamp. Both teams struggled to generate any sustained pressure with the only scoring chances coming on one and done rushes and several of the best looks not even hitting the net.
The first chance of the period came to Anders Lee for the Isles in the slot but Vasilevskiy made the save. A little under four minutes into the period, Cedric Paquette took a delay of game penalty. The Islanders did very little with the advantage and never threatened to get on the scoreboard.
With thirteen minutes left, the Lightning got their first good look of the period on a one-timer for Kucherov from the right circle. Unfortunately, he missed the net.
Shortly after missing the shot, Victor Hedman took a hooking penalty, putting the Islanders back on the power play. This time, they looked much more dangerous, testing Vasilevskiy multiple times. If the Lightning were getting sloppy because they felt over confident on the penalty kill, this should’ve woken them up.
After the power play, the Isles got the best chance of the period for either team. Leo Komarov fed a pretty pass cross ice to the backdoor for Valtteri Filppula (yes, that’s a real sentence). Vasilevskiy made one of his patented push-across saves barely getting his pad on the puck to keep the game scoreless.
The Lightning got the last two chances of the period but couldn’t finish either. First, Hedman got a wide open look from the slot on the rush and missed the net. And then Mathieu Joseph got a chance in close but Greiss shut him down.
At the end of the second, the Lightning still held a small lead in 5v5 and all situations expected goals. But the goalies were the stars to that point in the game.
The second period was a little boring. The third period was not. The Lightning came out intent to pressure the Isles and did just that. The first ten minutes of the third period was the most exciting hockey of the game and most of it was in Tampa’s favor.
The Lightning nearly got on the board one minute into the period on a beautiful pass from Johnson to Point. Point deflected it on net but Greiss made his first of many saves in the final stanza.
The Bolts continued to pour on the pressure but the Isles responded with a great shift from the Mat Barzal line. Vasy made several saves and sent the Bolts back the other direction where they again created a flurry in front of Greiss.
The Point line followed with another excellent shift creating more chances and at this point, it felt like a Lightning goal was inevitable. But Greiss had other ideas. All in all, the Lightning put 14 shots in the Isles goaltender in the first ten minutes of the period. He saved every one of them to keep his team in the game. Vasilevskiy matched him though making another good save when the Isles pushed back with pressure of their own.
In the second half of the period, the game slowed a little bit as the teams seemed to shift toward playing to ensure they got at least one point rather than pressing for both points the way they had in the first ten minutes. But even during that stretch, they continued to trade chances. The Isles got a good look off a faceoff and the Lightning responded with a chance on Greiss from the side of the net.
Ultimately, the goaltenders kept the puck out of the net and forced the game to overtime.
The overtime was just as exciting as the third period. The Bolts started with Hedman, Kucherov, and Point. That group didn’t generate much offense but Point sprung Ryan McDonagh on a breakaway on the first line change. The Lightning defender tried to go high glove on Greiss but missed the net.
The Isles responded with Barzal creating two good chances for Beauvillier who couldn’t get either shot past Vasilevskiy.
The best chance of the period came on a 2 on 1 for Johnson and Steven Stamkos. Greiss was completely beaten as Johnson tried to slide a pass across the slot to Stamkos. Had it gotten there, it would have been in the net. But Pulock laid out for the Islanders and kept the pass from getting to the Lightning captain.
To ratchet up the adrenaline another level, Kucherov took a cross checking penalty with 1:37 left forcing the Bolts to kill an extended 4 on 3 penalty. The Isles applied consistent pressure but never created the types of chances that would have forced Vasilevskiy out of position. The penalty killers were aggressive without breaking structure and managed to survive to the shootout.
NYI - Brock Nelson - No goal
TBL - Victor Hedman - Goal!
NYI - Mat Barzal - No Goal
TBL - Kucherov - No Goal
NTY - Josh Bailey - No Goal
The goalies were the stars of this game. Greiss made 41 saves. Vasilevskiy made 36. Neither deserved to take a loss tonight. But Vasy definitely earned the win keeping the Isles from finding the net all the way through the shootout. He had one of his best games of the year and stole this one for the Bolts.
The Lightning head to Manhattan tomorrow to face the Rangers on the second half of the back-to-back. After a long physical game, they’ll be in a tough spot, likely starting Louis Domingue. Picking up both points was key tonight because being able to get up for another game less than 24 hours later will be a challenge.