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Lightning defeat Islanders 4-2 to even series

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The defense scored! Three even strength goals! Vasy being Vasy.

New York Islanders v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Two Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Lightning continued their run of success following a loss as they defeated the New York Islanders 4-2 in Game Two of the semifinal round. They are now 11-0 following losses over the last two playoff runs. Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat, Jan Rutta, and Victor Hedman scored for the Bolts while Andrei Vasilevskiy made 24 saves. Brock Nelson and Mathew Barzal scored for the Islanders.

The game started off with much more intensity than the first match-up as Patrick Maroon and Scott Mayfield were sent off just three minutes into the period due to some aggressive stickholding that turned into a wrestling match and some harsh words. Both were sent off for their transgressions. The two teams skated four aside before Ryan Purlock’s stick caught Anthony Cirelli in the face.

There would be no goals on the four-on-three or the ensuing five-on-four as Semyon Varlamov committed some thievery on Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov’s back-to-back attempts.

Fear not, those two would connect for the Lightning’s first goal. After a lackluster clear by the Islanders, David Savard sent the puck back down low, Kucherov chipped a blind backhand pass from behind the net right to Point who shot it through Varlamov for his 10th goal of the postseason. And it was at even strength!

Brayden Point (Nikita Kucherov, David Savard)

Shortly after the goal, it was Vasilevskiy’s turn to commit theft while shorthanded. Travis Zajac had his deflection padded away and then Kyle Palmieri had his rebound attempt snatched out of the air. Simply brilliant.

Not so brilliant was a call on Point as he was shoved into Varlamov by Adam Pelech. Varlamov left the game and was replaced by Ilya Sorokin while the Islanders quickly scored on the power play. Yeah, the ref thought Point could have avoided the hit.

Brock Nelson (unassisted) Power Play

The fourth lines finally got to square off against each other as Maroon and Matt Martin were whistled for fighting. The Lightning put some pressure on Sorokin as Jan Rutta’s shot deflected in on home. Due to a couple of icings the Islanders had their players on the ice for over two minutes. They were eventually able to clear it, but Leo Komarov was called for interfering with Alex Killorn.

The Lightning power play wasn’t as crisp as the first opportunity and the Islanders killed it off. A solid chance from Anthony Cirelli almost gave the Lightning the lead but the puck rolled off his stick as he tried to bring it to his forehand and tuck it past Sorokin. The period ended with the two teams scrumming at the center of the ice. No doubt that the Bolts were fully engaged in this game.

Varlamov returned for the start of the second and was tested immediately by a Kucherov shot. The Lightning had some decent pressure early in the period but the Islanders did a good job of shunting the play to the perimeter and blocking shots. Blake Coleman went to the box after delivering an impressive windmill slash on the JG Pageau’s stick. Yanni Goude had a dynamite penalty kill, including a breakaway where he almost beat Varlamov.

There wasn’t much action from either side throughout the first ten or eleven minutes of the period. The Islanders grazed the post a couple of times but neither goaltender was overly bothered with a tremendous workload as the two teams combined for only nine shots on goal during that time.

The Lightning caught a bit of a break with six-and-a-half minutes to go as a sloppy line change led to them having six skaters on the ice at the same time. That’s one too many! The refs and linesmen missed it and Tampa Bay scored.

A long pass from Victor Hedman in the Lightning zone found Kucherov in alone against two Islanders. He circled around and baited both of them into collapsing on him. That left the center of the ice wide open for Ondrej Palat. Kucherov hit him with the pass and Palat buried it, snapping an eight-game goalless streak.

Ondrej Palat (Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman)

The Islanders responded with solid pressure following the goal, but couldn’t find the equalizer. Ross Colton almost made it 3-1 after a nice set-up by Maroon, but Varlamov made a blocker save on the shot from the slot. As the period ticked to a conclusion, Vasilevskiy answered with his own 9.5 bell save as he kicked out the right pad on Anthony Beauvillier. It was a grind of a period, but the Bolts emerged with the lead.

The Lightning rewarded the excellent save by their netminder by controlling the play for the first two-and-a-half minutes of the period. Then they capped it off with an important insurance goal. The long, regional nightmare is over. The Lightning defense scored a goal. A strong forecheck led to some discombobulation by the Islanders and the puck leaked out to Jan Rutta. The big fella, who hadn’t found the back of the net since December of 2019, let it rip and picked the top corner. Varlamov, screened by at least one of his own players, never saw it. 3-1.

Jan Rutta (Blake Coleman, Barclay Goodrow)

The second line, which had been pretty quiet through the first two periods had several solid shifts in the first five minutes of the final frame with Steven Stamkos drawing a penalty on Travis Zajac. Coach Cooper mentioned that penalties are caused by making the other team desperate. With the way the Islanders were being pinned back in their own zone, they got out of their game plan a little and took a really bad penalty.

Despite taking a timeout to get a the first unit back on the ice, the Lightning weren’t able to capitalize. A blistering shot that went wide off of the stick of Kucherov was the best chance they generated.

They would get another chance as Zajac slashed Barclay Goodrow in the hands, preventing a good chance by the Lightning fourth liner. Again, a solid play (in this case a face-off win) led to a desperation penalty on the Isles. The Lightning would not be denied a fourth time.

Victor Hedman. That’s it. That’s the goal.

Victory Hedman (Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos) Power Play

If you’re counting along, that’s three helpers for Kucherov. Following the goal, Gourde and Leo Komarov wrestled each other along the boards and earned roughing penalties (Komarov was nailed with an additional 10-minute misconduct). It quickly devolved into a four-on-three for the Islanders when Erik Cernak was sent off for a slash. The Islanders didn’t score and the score remained 4-1 with six minutes to go.

The Bolts were back on the power play after Beauvillier punched Kucherov in the head not once, but twice. No joy on the power play and the Islanders clawed one back with the Barzal line. A nice move into the Lightning zone allowed Jordan Eberle a clean look at Vasalevskiy. He couldn’t control the rebound and Barzal tapped the puck into an empty net.

Mathew Barzal (Jordan Eberle, Nick Leddy)

That line was really the one that seemed to threaten the Lightning on a consistent basis throughout the night and they were finally able to get one past Vasy. Hedman almost restored the three-goal lead as his big shot clipped the underside of the crossbar but stayed out. New York was eventually able to pull the goaltender and they set up shop in the Lightning zone.

The quintet of Ryan McDonagh, Erik Cernak, Anthony Cirelli, Alex Killorn, and Barclay Goodrow did yeoman’s work keeping the puck on the perimeter. Despite not having a timeout, they were content with dumping the puck down the ice and taking icing calls (three of them). They allowed just a weak wrist shot from Josh Bailey from a bad angle. A really strong finish by the team that capped off a well-played third period.

Bonus Thoughts

  • With a one-goal lead heading into the third period, the Lightning absolutely throttled the Islanders through the first half of the period. According to Natural Stat Trick, through the first 12 minutes, Tampa Bay controlled the shot charts - 15-7 in attempts, 10-6 in unblocked shots, and 7-4 in shots that reached the net. They also doubled up the Islanders in scoring chances (8-4) and high-danger chances (4-2). That’s a championship period.
  • They were a lot crisper throughout the game and the forwards stayed back to help the defensemen exit the zone. That allowed them to rush through the neutral zone with a lot more speed than they did in Game One.
  • Ondrej Palat had a really good game even before his goal. His head was up the whole time and he was moving the puck well. The entire first line was on the same page