Brayden Point celebrated his return to the lineup with 2 points, including one goal and an assist on the game-winning goal. Alex Killorn was also back to the ice after serving a one-game suspension. The Tampa Bay Lightning returned to their familiar roster during the postseason with 11 forwards and 7 defencemen, which proved to be a winning combination in this 4-1 victory over the Islanders.
Carter Verhaeghe appeared during the warmup but didn’t play. The Islanders missed Casey Cizikas and Tom Kuhnhackl, with both players leaving the bubble unable to return for the remainder of the playoffs.
The Lightning have a chance to advance to the Stanley Cup Final on Tuesday during Game 5.
During the warmup some players including Matt Martin, Ross Johnston, Luke Schenn and Pat Maroon had a small conversation at centre ice, so it’s safe to say that many viewers expected gloves to be dropped very early into the game. It didn’t happen, however the atmosphere of the game was clear right from the start.
The Lightning were more active in the first half of the game: they controlled the puck and locked the Islanders in their own zone for the most of the time. The first chance happened when Anthony Cirelli hit the post with a long-distance shot and Alex Killorn was close to redirect it past Semyon Varlamov. A couple of minutes later it was Cirelli who almost got a chance to take advantage of the bouncing puck in front of the net after a Tyler Johnson shot.
The Bolts led the Isles 11-1 in shot attempts after five minutes of the game and the first Islanders shot on goal happened during the sixth minute. The Isles bounced back a little after that shot but still weren’t able to put dangerous pressure on the Lightning’s net.
The Bolts got their first power play opportunity eight minutes into the game when Adam Pelech tripped Brayden Point, while he was entering the zone. The Lightning opened the power play with their second unit, which showed a couple of interesting ideas, but remained scoreless. The first unit though did not succeed either. Jon Cooper shook up power play formation a little: Victor Hedman returned to the first unit and Killorn went to the second.
The Lightning kept controlling the pace of the game in the second half of period but didn’t manage to convert it into real goals. Ondrej Palat had a good chance after the Islanders were going for a change, but the shot was stopped by Varlamov. Tampa Bay put pressure on the opponent at the end of the period, but it still finished without goals.
The gloves were finally dropped though: Matt Martin fired the puck into the Lightning’s net after the horn sound and Kevin Shattenkirk went after him. Yanni Gourde was also involved in a scrum with Cal Clutterbuck and missed a hook into his face. Both players and Matt Martin ended up in penalty box and the Lightning started the second period on power play.
Tampa Bay dominated the first period, allowing the Islanders to make just eight shot attempts. The Lightning also had a lead in expected goal share with 81 per cent.
The Lightning were very careful on the opening power play of the first period. The first unit played a whole two minutes but couldn’t create a lot around the Islanders net. Right after that the Isles almost opened the score, when the puck deflected off Zack Bogosian’s skate after Brassard’s shot, but Vasilevskiy was able to cover it.
The Islanders got their first power play opportunity eight minutes into the second period, but continue to own the title of the team with the lowest conversion rate with the man advantage, finishing it without a single shot on goal and even allowed a shorthanded shot by Killorn after the Lightning controlled the puck almost half of the minute.
However, when the power play expired, the Islanders put up probably one of the best shifts in the game, creating three really good chances in the Lightning zone. They didn’t score this time, but two minutes later managed to open the score when Brock Nelson took advantage of a free space on the left side of the Lightning zone and sniped the puck past Vasilevskiy. Their lead didn’t last very long as Blake Coleman tied the score, scoring on a pass through the whole ice by Gourde. Just 12 seconds later the Bolts added another goal: Point and Kucherov started the opportunity, entering the opponent’s zone with short passes and Ondrej Palat finished the combination with a snipe past Varlamov.
The Islanders continued occasionally putting up some strong shifts, forcing Vasilevskiy to make big stops, but couldn’t capitalize on it. Statistically speaking, the Islanders overtook possession this period, leading in both shot attempts and expected goal share and creating more high-dangerous opportunities, however the Lightning had a lead on the scoreboard.
The Lightning started this period very fresh. Brayden Point was one of the most active players in the opening minutes. One of his shot almost ended up in the net: it sneaked through Varlamov’s pads, but Jordan Eberle was first on the puck before it crossed the line.
The Lightning top line didn’t give up and created another beautiful combination: Palat started the play with a soccer-style pass with back of his skate, Kucherov entered the zone and left the puck for Palat who slid it to the crease, where Brayden Point beat Varlamov sending the puck into the net and making it 3-1 in favor of the Lightning.
The Isles kept the pace from the previous period, having a slight advantage on the Lightning in shot attempts, but Vasilevskiy was perfect and the Bolts did better in quality of their shots, having an advantage in expected goal share.
There was some concern about Brayden Point, who returned to the bench in pain after getting tangled by Pelech, but a Lightning forward returned to the ice moments later. Hopefully there won’t be some consequences of that small incident.
The Isles pulled the goalie three minutes before the end of the period and almost immediately left out Pat Maroon who scored his first career postseason goal for the Tampa Bay Lightning into the empty net. The Bolts won the game 4-1 and are just one win away from advancing to the Stanley Cup Final.
Blake Coleman (Yanni Gourde, Andrei Vasilevskiy) 1-1
Ondrej Palat (Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point) 2-1
Brayden Point (Ondrej Palat, Nikita Kucherov) 3-1
Pat Maroon (Yanni Gourde, Cedric Paquette) 4-1