Fists fly as Lightning finish off Islanders 4-1

Zdeno Chara was going after everyone.

It had been 143 days since the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the New York Islanders in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Semifinal en route to their second consecutive Stanley Cup. Tonight’s contest kept the same theme as the Bolts defeated the Islanders 4-1, thanks to goals from Mathieu Joseph, Anthony Cirelli, Brayden Point, and Steven Stamkos.

Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 25 of 26 shots in the win, with the Lightning going one for four on the power play and perfect on three penalty kills. Seven power plays between the two sides don’t tell the whole story, however, as the two teams racked up a combined 68 penalty minutes, including four fighting majors and three misconducts.

The game started off with some fisticuffs as Zdeno Chara and Pat Maroon dropped the gloves immediately after puck drop. There was some jawing between the two, and it appeared that Chara wanted to set the tone early that the Islanders wouldn’t be pushed around. Maroon did what he could against the giant defender, but Chara’s reach makes it near impossible to fight him, and the big man took Maroon down after a few missed punches.

That scuffle raised the emotional level for the games as both teams showed neither had lost the disdain for each other over the offseason. Most of the nastiness came in the second period, but make no mistake, Chara and Maroon’s fight set the tone. In the first, it was largely an even period of play. The teams traded goals in the opening minutes of the period as Mathew Barzal and Mathieu Joseph scored within 23 seconds of each other.

Barzal’s goal came on a breakaway after Victor Hedman turned the puck over at the offensive blueline. Joseph’s goal came from a deflected puck that Alex Killorn created after forechecking Sebastian Aho near the left sidewall. Joseph wasted little time as he rifled one past Varlamov.

New York was the more aggressive team during the first period, but the Lightning did a solid job defending these attacks and relying on counter-attacking to push back. Eventually, Tampa Bay managed to maintain consistent pressure and drew a late penalty. This time, Jon Cooper sent out the second power-play unit given their solid play of late. That unit’s ability to maintain control helped buoy the Lightning on the man advantage. They failed to score, but the pressure created forced the Islanders into an awkward net-front battle that saw Anthony Cirelli recover the puck and quickly fire it past Varlamov to make it 2-1 with less than a minute left in the period.

The second period saw more of the post-whistle scrums and hits that permeated the past two playoff series between these two teams. Tampa Bay got the short end of the stick as they had to kill four separate penalties in the middle frame. Luckily, the penalty kill was up to the task every time, but the period will be remembered more for the dangerous blindside hit from Brock Nelson on Alex Killorn that saw Cirelli immediately throw the gloves to the ice and fight him.

Nelson had no desire to fight as Cirelli managed to land at least three or four punches before the officials broke them up. In the end, Cirelli was given two for instigating, five for fighting, and a ten-minute misconduct. Nelson was originally given a five-minute major, but after review, the officials reduce it to a normal charging penalty.

Given how many power-plays the Islanders had, they dictated the pace for most of the period, but Tampa Bay defended everything very well. When shots did get in close they cleared rebounds and boxed out the attacking forwards. Specifically, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare stood out as one of the Lightning’s best players on the penalty kill (as he normally does), but there were three separate instances that he negated an Islanders pass of entry attempt.

The Islanders and Lightning traded chances in the first half of the third period, with Matt Martin taking an interference penalty with about 12 minutes to go. Despite a couple chances, the Islanders killed the penalty off. Martin got a couple chances on Vasilevskiy right as he came out of the box, but no goals.

The Lightning came right back on the next shift with Palat and Killorn getting a two-on-one in transition. Killorn was stopped in front of the net as Mayfield caused a pile-up around Varlamov, but it was Brayden Point who followed up and buried the puck into the back of the net for the insurance goal.

Chara cross-checked Katchouk in the neck behind the net after the fourth line and second pair were fighting for the puck. Katchouk got back up and started going after Chara, sparking a scrum. A big moment for the rookie as he went toe-to-toe with the biggest baddest man in the league after getting his stick to the face.

Chara got the cross-checking penalty and Stamkos made no mistake, burying home a shot teed up by Hedman from his office giving the Lightning a three-goal lead. Point was the architect of the transition from the defensive zone into the offensive zone after an early clear by the Islanders.

On the shift immediately following the goal, Raddysh took his turn to draw a penalty, this one a slashing call on Zach Parise. The call happened with four minutes left in the game, killing half the remaining time in the game, as the Islanders gave up for the final two minutes beyond one rush chance from Kyle Palmieri.