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Game 1 Recap: Lightning come close at the end, but lose 2-1

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On the bright side, the Lightning didn’t get shut out for the first time since 2018.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Islanders at Tampa Bay Lightning
Jun 13, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) defense the puck from New York Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield (24) during the third period in game one of the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals at Amalie Arena.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Lightning dropped Game 1 at home to the New York Islanders by a score of 2-1. Brayden Point scored in the final minute of the game to make it close, but for much of the third period the Lightning weren’t very threatening. Mat Barzal scored the opening goal off a turnover, and Ryan Pulock beat Andrei Vasilevskiy with a point shot he’ll want back. Vasilevskiy stopped 29 of 31 in the loss, while the Islanders goalie stopped 30 of 31.

We’ve seen this before, the Lightning didn’t wake up to their competition, made some careless decisions, and didn’t wake up until it was too late. For this game, the Islanders knew to cut off passing plays at the top of the zone and create counterattacks from them, that’s how they scored one and nearly a couple more. The other was on Vasilevsky. I think the Islanders feel scary when it comes to going to the front of the net and fighting them there, but it’s very possible to beat them, as seen by Point’s brilliant goal. The Lightning have the staying power and talent to make those plays work in tight.

The shots from the slot were good, especially when they were teed up by passes from behind the net. Keep those up and they’ll start going in. This game really came down to mistakes and turnovers, so if those can get resolved, the Lightning have a chance to make this series theirs.

First Period

Right off the bat, there was a line brawl, but the refs weren’t having it. The Islanders have some childish jealousy from last postseason and have made it clear they wanted to get back at their better opponents. Matt Martin and Barclay Goodrow both got unsportsmanlike penalties eight seconds in. The Islanders are upset about nothing and this is their tactic to get energized for this series. They lost fair and square. They and their fans are looking for reasons to be upset and indignant.

Most of the chances early on were just point shots, but the Lightning were at least doing a good job creating movement and getting the shots to come from different directions.

After falling by himself, McDonagh was behind his man and took a tripping penalty. Sergachev, Cirelli, and Coleman were great at clearing the zone on the disadvantage. The Islanders got no chances. They were barely in the offensive zone for more than a couple seconds in total.

Barzal and Killorn ran into each other. It wasn’t a blindside hit, it wasn’t interference, Barzal seemed fine other than it was he being the one with his butt on the ice.

Vasilevskiy made a great save on Jean-Gabriel Pageau from a sharp angle, and then came across as the puck was behind the net to stop Kyle Palmieri on the other. Goodrow took a roughing penalty during that scoring chance, but the Lightning again denied the offensive zone completely. The Islanders then reverted to dump-and-chase. During that forecheck, Noah Dobson took a hard point shot and Vasilevskiy parried away with his pad all the way out of the zone. It was like a tennis volley. The Islanders didn’t get any other chances in their power play.

Brayden Point had two good chances on his shift after the power play, but he got too much elevation on the puck on his partial break to beat Varlamov.

After One

5v5 Stats

  • Shot attempts: 11-16 (41%)
  • Shots on goal: 7-10
  • Scoring chances: 9-8
  • Expected goals: 0.56-0.67 (46%)

Thoughts:

The Islanders had two chances around the net with an initial shot from a sharp angle, and then a rebound aimed from the far side. I counted maybe three chances from them, those were at least the only times Vasilevskiy was challenged.

The Lightning played a good period, their penalty kill was outstanding.

Second Period

Josh Bailey had another chance from the side of the net that bounced off the crossbar, this was a bit of a worrying chance because he had beaten Vasilevskiy.

The Lightning struggled to get the third or fourth man into the offensive attack during rushes because the Islanders were cutting those passes off from the side. They’d be better off just going all out forward when they have the numbers. Savard had a great chance set up by Palat from behind the net. It’s situations once the team is already in the zone where they can take advantage of an extra coming in down low. Something to think about.

0-1

Stamkos tried that cross ice pass again from the top of the zone, but it got cut off before it got to Cirelli. Mat Barzal went back the other way and beat Vasilevskiy five-hole (followed closely by him running into the net).

The Islanders then got another power play when Cernak got called for tripping Barzal. The Lightning penalty kill once again kept the Islanders from entering the zone. Seriously, this might sound like hyperbole, but the Lightning were genuinely not letting the Islanders get more than a few seconds in the offensive zone. At the tail end of the penalty, Killorn got a breakaway and forced Varlamov to take a faceoff.

Palmieri got called for tripping on Cernak, giving the Lightning a power play with 30 seconds left in the period. Stamkos nearly got the tying goal on a broken play by Point from right in front of the net, but he shot it too much on the short side.

After Two

5v5 Stats

  • Shot attempts: 18-9 (67%)
  • Shots on goal: 8-7
  • Scoring chances: 14-8
  • Expected goals: 0.66-0.83 (45%)

Thoughts:

The Lightning really improved their shot output in the period and were bedded in the front of the net. Unfortunately the Islanders had their own counterattack chances, one of which led to the goal.

The Lightning were making a lot of mistakes with their offense, especially trying to force passes that weren’t there and overall not being flexible against the Islanders defense.

Third Period

Disappointingly, the Lightning didn’t get anything going on the 90 seconds power play at the start of the period. However, they were in the offensive zone a lot even after the penalty expired and were getting their chances, Killorn had the biggest one from the slot that Varlamov stopped.

0-2

A harmless shot from the point found its way past Vasilevskiy, doubling the Islanders lead. Looking closely at the replay, Vasilevskiy just misses it.

The offense stagnated after the 10 minute mark, with shots pretty much only coming from the wing, and often them not coming at all. Palat had the best chance that didn’t even result in a shot.

Vasilevskiy left the net with two and a half minutes left in the period. Stamkos had a chance from the weak side, but it was saved by the goalie’s blocker. Kucherov got cross checked in the face, sending the Lightning to the power play for the final 100 seconds for the game. 6-on-4.

1-2

Point pops the water bottle and brings the game to within one with just under a minute left in the game! What a gamer. Kucherov and Stamkos set each other up for chances around the outside, but it wasn’t quite working until Killorn got the puck low and found an open space for Point in tight. From there, it was all down to the superstar.

Unfortunately, that would be all the Lightning would get, as they lose Game 1.

After Three

Full Game 5v5 Stats:

  • Shot attempts: 38-35 (52%)
  • Shots on goal: 20-25
  • Scoring chances: 29-20
  • Expected goals: 1.62-1.86 (47%)