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Lightning Round: Tampa Bay is one win away from the Stanley Cup Final

Brayden Point returned (for most of the game) and led the way to a Game Four victory

Tampa Bay Lightning v New York Islanders - Game Four Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

Spotting the other team a goal in every game probably isn’t an ideal way to get through the Eastern Conference Final, but it seems to be working for the Tampa Bay Lightning. With the exception of Game One (remember that game? That was fun) the Islanders have jumped out to the lead in every other game. Yet, the Lightning are the ones who are one win from moving on to the next round.

It’s part and parcel with the resiliency this team has shown during these summer playoffs. From game-to-game, and period-to-period, when this team stumbles they find a way to correct their course and pull out a win.

The Islanders have thrown everything at the Lightning that they can and it still hasn’t been enough. New York has found ways to control portions of the game, but on the whole the Lightning have been the better team in this series. Sunday’s game was a microcosm of the series. Tampa played well in the first, but couldn’t score. Then the Islanders controlled the second and seemed to gain a bit of control when they scored. It didn’t last.

In a blink of an eye the Lightning tied and then went ahead. That’s the beauty of having an extremely talented team - it doesn’t take long to strike when things go well. They’ve always had the talent, now, it seems, they understand that talent isn’t enough. The ability to put unfortunate breaks, fluke goals, missed penalties, and bad play behind them and focus on executing their game plan is almost as important.

Coach Cooper has mentioned how impressed he’s been by the mindset of the team. They don’t get to high after wins, nor do they wallow in despair after their losses. Granted there haven’t been many losses from which to despair.

Now comes the hardest part - finishing the series off.

From the Game:

It wasn’t the cleanest victory they’ve had this postseason (the second period could have been better) but the Lightning turned the game around in a flash. After surrendering the first goal, Tampa Bay scored twice before Islander’s fans were done celebrating. [Raw Charge]

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.

Ondrej Palat scored the go-ahead goal, but there is no doubt who he thinks is the best player on the ice (NBC - it’s not Matthew Barzal) [Tampa Bay Times]

Said Palat, who also assisted on Point’s goal: “He has been our best player, and he’s a huge part of our team. When he’s on the ice, he’s playing great. We’re very happy he could play (Sunday).”

Is this good? This seems good:

This is the opposite of good:

So, much like after Game Two, the Lightning are faced with a decision. Do they rest Point on Tuesday knowing that they have a commanding lead in the series, or do they try and end it and send him out there even if he is less than healthy?

The only thing we know for sure is that we won’t know for sure if he’s playing until game time on Tuesday. Until then they’ll be “managing” him. Coach Cooper insinuated that not having Point play the last half of the third was part of that plan.

A general consensus of the top three players in the running for the Lightning’s MVP of the postseason includes Point, Victor Hedman, and Andrei Vasilevskiy. Quietly working his way into that discussion is Point’s linemate - Nikita Kucherov. His 19 assists are already the third most by a winger in a single postseason. [StatsCentre Twitter]

From the other side of the ice. Islanders fans are starting to think that the end might be coming soon. [Lighthouse Hockey]

Well, down 3-1 against these guys without Casey Cizikas seems like a death sentence. But, crazier things can happen. Just not sure the Isles have enough gas left in the tank to make them happen. Either way, it’s been a very fun run with an overall very likable Islanders team.

News from around the league:

Award season continued yesterday with the league announcing the winner of the Mark Messier Leadership Award. Congratulations to Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano. [Matchsticks and Gasoline]

It’s one of the NHL’s worst kept secrets: Mark Giordano is a good guy. It really doesn’t get more simple than that statement. The Flames Captain is a leader on the ice, as he’s always known as one of the “good guys” and rarely, if ever finds himself in some shenanigans. Off the ice, he’s even better as he is known for devoting his time to local charities in the Calgary community.

Tonight’s Game:

Dallas Stars “@” Vegas Golden Knights - Stars lead series 3-1

8:00 pm - NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, SN

The Stars have a chance to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since the turn of the century. It was twenty years ago that Dallas lost to Marty Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils. Now to get back to the promised land they’ll have to finish off a Golden Knights team that will throw everything they have at them to stave off elimination. Should be a good hockey contest.