Revenge, it’s a dish best served cold. So where better to serve it than on the ice?
After falling to Tampa in last year’s Eastern Conference Final, the Islanders came out on Sunday afternoon at Amalie Arena and set the tone for their Semi-Final series matchup with a 2-1 victory over the Lightning. Semyon Varlamov made 30-saves, Mathew Barzal continued his hot goal-scoring ways and Ryan Pulock provided some insurance as the Islanders took an early series lead.
Head Coach Barry Trotz went on The Michael Kay Show after the conclusion of the Boston series and explained the differences between last year’s and this year’s matchups between the Lightning and Islanders. So far, so good. There was no lack of rest for the Isles and there was no cross-country plane flight.
So, with that being said, here’s how it happened in game One…
Semyon Varlamov and Andrei Vasilevskiy were in net for their respective teams, which is about as good a matchup as you can find this time of year.
Eight-seconds into the game, Matt Martin and David Savard mixed things up after an early whistle and a brief fracas ensued; just in case you needed any further proof these teams don’t like each other. That led to the teams skating four-aside as Martin and Barclay Goodrow were sent to their respective penalty boxes.
A couple of offensive flurries were exchanged during the four-on-four, but neither goalie gave an inch so the game settled down and returned back to five-on-five in short order. Then, with 3:22 gone by, Anthony Cirelli coughed up the puck to J.G. Pageau, who was then tripped up by Ryan McDonagh in Tampa’s zone to send the Islanders to their first power-play — the first of the series for either team.
However, during the Isles man-advantage, the Lightning generated several short-handed attempts and managed to kill off the penalty while grabbing some early momentum. In fact, the Islanders didn’t manage to get off a single shot on goal during their power-play; which was part of the reason Tampa jumped out to a 6-1 shots advantage.
Once things were back to even-strength, the teams traded chances, with the Isles’ best opportunity coming around the midway point of the period as Kyle Palmieri was stoned in tight by Vasilevskiy. On the play, Goodrow was called for roughing Palmieri, which sent the Nassaumen to their second power-play of the game.
This time the Islanders managed to get a couple of shots towards Vasilevskiy, who made a nice pad save on Noah Dobson and a stick save on Anthony Beuavillier, but the result was still the same — no goals — so the score remained 0-0.
That theme continued to evolve through the end of the first period as the Boys from Long Island were a drop quicker to the puck and got several quality shots through to Vasilevskiy; however, Tampa’s netminder stood tall. Not to be outdone, but Varlamov was also in top form as he did not yield any early goals and matched his Lightning counterpart save-for-save.
So, at the end of the first period, the score was 0-0, the shots were 14-11 Islanders and the hits were 16-15 Isles.
On to the second period and things started off slow, until Josh Bailey had Vasilevskiy beat in the crease but his backhander went off the crossbar and stayed out to keep this a 0-0 game. Moments later, Anthony Beauvillier stole the puck at Tampa’s blue line from Brayden Point and got off a backhander against Vasilevskiy, but the shot was swallowed up to keep the Islanders off the board.
Savard then generated a couple of quality chances on his own against Varlamov, but the Isles netminder turned both aside.
Back at the other end of the ice, Vasilevskiy continued to be a wall in net as he prevented Mathew Barzal from opening the scoring after Barzal got around Victor Hedman with a silky sweet move.
Vasilevskiy’s luck ran out moments later though as Barzal took a long feed from Josh Bailey and went five-hole on Tampa’s netminder to give the Islanders the 1-0 lead at 12:32 of the second period.
Barzal continued to be a pest Tampa had no answer for and Erik Cernak stuck his stick into Barzal’s skates deep in Tampa’s zone to put the Islanders on their third power-play of the game. The Isles didn’t get anything going but Alex Killorn did use his speed to blow past Nick Leddy as he fired a backhander at Varlamov that the Isles’ netminder had to make a sprawling save on.
Then, after New York’s power-play expired, with 37-seconds left in the second period, Kyle Palmieri was called for cross-checking Cernak in Tampa’s zone, which sent the Lightning to their first power-play of the game. The Nassaumen didn’t allow Tampa to score during the final 37-seconds of the period, so they entered the third period up 1-0, but they still had 1:23 left of penalty-kill time.
The third period began and the Isles killed off the rest of Palmieri’s penalty without much fuss. The Lightning eventually put some pressure on the Islanders at even-strength but Varlamov shut down Killorn’s attempt with a nice save.
Moments later, Ryan Pulock tee’d one up and fired a shot through Vasilevskiy for the 2-0 Islanders lead at 5:36 of the third period. Given how potent Tampa’s offense usually is, it was crucial for the Islanders to gain the two-goal lead; especially as the road team. So kudos to Pulock for accomplishing that task.
From there, the Islanders put the clampdown on the Lightning until Vasilevskiy headed to the bench for the extra attacker with 2:33 to go and Brock Nelson was called for a soft high-sticking penalty against Nikita Kucherov with 1:37 to go to make things interesting.
On the power-play, Brayden Point scored from in tight with 53-seconds to go to make it a 2-1 game. The last 53-seconds crept by, but in the end, the Islanders came out of it with a 2-1 Game One victory and a 1-0 series lead.
See you Tuesday night for Game Two.
The Isles went 0-for-3 on the power-play to go to 0-for-3 in the series and 9-for-35 in the playoffs…The Isles went 1-for-2 on the penalty-kill to go to 1-for-2 in the series and 17-for-28 in the playoffs…Mathew Barzal’s second period goal was his fourth goal in his last five games.
Game 2 — Tuesday June 15th Islanders at Lightning at Amalie Arena at 8pm(EST).
TV: NBCSN, TVAS, CBC, SN
Radio: 88.7FM WRHU