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Tampa Bay Lightning Recap: Bolts surge ahead to lead series 2-1

Who said a skilled team can’t win low-scoring games.

Tampa Bay Lightning v New York Islanders - Game Three
UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - JUNE 17: Victor Hedman #77, Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 and Brayden Point #21 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrate their team’s 2-1 victory against the New York Islanders in Game Three of the Stanley Cup Semifinals during the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Nassau Coliseum on June 17, 2021 in Uniondale, New York.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Lightning have remembered how to beat the New York Islanders after taking Game 2 by a score of 4-2 and now winning Game 3 last night 2-1. Yes, the high-flying offensive team can win close, low-scoring games. They did it last year, too. Okay, enough bragging, let’s talk about the game.

Yanni Gourde scored in the first period to open the scoring, and minutes after the Islanders tied it, Brayden Point scored a clutch goal at the end of the second that was the eventual game-winner. The Lightning shut down the third period, Andrei Vasilevskiy made 27 saves on 28 shots, and the Lightning won 2-1 to take an identical lead in the best of seven series.

Last summer when Tampa Bay and the Islanders played, the Lightning won three games this way. Not just going out to a two-goal lead and holding it, but coming back with another goal to win the game after it was tied. Nikita Kucherov scored the winner in Game 2, Ondrej Palat scored the winner in Game 4, and Anthony Cirelli put the Islanders away in Game 6. In Game 3 this year, the hero was Point.

Gourde’s Goal

As I mentioned, Yanni Gourde opened the scoring after an outstanding second effort set up by his winger Blake Coleman. The line was coming in off the rush with the puck on Coleman’s stick, he went for a shot that Semyon Varlamov saved and then battled his way through Noah Dobson to get his hands on the rebound and sent it to the middle of the ice where he knew his linemates were going to be.

The puck took a fortunate bounce through the crease before landing on Gourde’s stick, who fired it straight away into the back of the net.

It was this goal that put the Lightning on the front foot and they were able to command the flow of the game and actually ran up a healthy shot margin into the second period (+9 at 5v5).

Clutterbuck and Cernak

Then the momentum swung back with a couple big shifts by the Islanders where they really piled on the shots. They got a power play where at the tail end Cal Clutterbuck “scored” on Vasilevskiy to tie the game. In reality, Erik Cernak put the puck in his own net during the chaos.

Here’s the goal, followed by an alternate angle where you can see what Cernak was trying to do at the side of the net.

Very simply, he could’ve just shot the puck off the back boards and lived to fight another day rather than try and get Vasilevskiy to cover it. The goal came at the end of a penalty kill shift, but Cernak was fairly fresh.

No team is perfect, and no team needs to be perfect in order to win games. Good teams can make mistakes, give up a stinker, and still win. This is what the Lightning have been doing in all three rounds of the playoffs so far.

Point’s Goal

Despite all the momentum flowing in the Islanders direction, the Lightning were able to get a power play with a little more than a couple minutes left. On it, the first unit piled on all the pressure but the tight diamond the Islanders were making were keeping Anthony Cirelli and Point from being useful.

Finally after the power play expired, Victor Hedman’s point shot took a bounce and landed behind Point. The center somehow grabbed the puck with his stick and swept it across the face of the goal and through Varlamov’s five hole. As he was shooting, Scott Mayfield jumped on him and appeared to injure Point. He lay on the ice for a second, and rolled over in pain, but he was able to shake it off and celebrate with his team.

Watching the video was an amazing mix of emotions; first glee from the goal, followed by fear for Point’s well-being, and finally half-worried celebrating with mild anxiety about whether Point can stay in the game or not.

The Third Period

The Lightning then closed out the game thanks to some excellent work from the defense.

First, Mikhail Sergachev valiantly standing up for his goalie. He’s grown up so much since he came to Tampa. What an amazing, underrated player.

David Savard did what he had to do to get the puck out of the danger zone.

And finally, here is the full 6-on-5 to end the game. The team did an amazing job keeping the Islanders out of the zone, just like they did multiple times on the penalty kill in this and previous games. Hedman and Ryan McDonagh were great at getting back and clearing the puck, while Barclay Goodrow, Alex Killorn, Cirelli, Kucherov, Palat, and Point all did so well at pressuring the puck carriers and staying in formation.

What’s even more amazing is that the Islanders couldn’t muster a single shot in the final two minutes. That tells you right there the kind of work the Lightning did to shut things down.