Well thank goodness for consistency and for Ryan Pulock! For the third time in these playoffs, the Islanders won a Game Four at home, after losing Game Three, to even up their series with the Lightning and it couldn’t have come at a better time. But that wouldn’t have been possible without the last-second heroics of Pulock.
Saturday night, inside historic Nassau Coliseum, the Old Barn witnessed yet another series-saving victory as the Islanders bested Tampa 3-2 to even their Semi-Final series at two-games apiece. And remember, this win means The Coliseum gets to live another day as Game Six is now assured; so the Stay of Execution has been continued once again.
Semyon Varlamov recorded 28-saves, Mathew Barzal scored again, Josh Bailey and Matt Martin each chipped in with a goal and Ryan Pulock made a game-saving dive to lead the way for the Boys from Long Island and the team is now in the same situation it’s been in twice before; a best two-of-three where the winner advances and the loser goes home.
So, now that you’re caught up with where the Isles-Lightning Semi-Final series stands, let’s get to the details of what happened in Game Four.
As has been the case since the middle of Round Two versus Boston, Islanders fans joined together in unison, along with singer Nicole Raviv, to sing The National Anthem before the start of the game. It has quickly become a new tradition for Isles home games and will hopefully continue at UBS Arena next season. But first, there was at least one one more game to be played inside The Coliseum.
Tampa got the first couple of chances against Semyon Varlamov as Barclay Goodrow and Yanni Gourde registered stuff in tries. However, Varlamov stood tall in the opening minute to prevent the Lightning from grabbing an early lead.
From there, the Islanders tried to take advantage of an odd man rush that led to Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri heading up the ice, but Palmieri’s shot rang off the near post to deny the Islanders an early goal. After that, it was all Lightning for several minutes as Varmlamov was forced to make key saves against Alex Killorn and Ross Colton.
Amidst the early chaos Tampa caused in the Islanders’ zone, New York did get a quality chance in the Lightning’s zone but Andrei Vasilevskiy made a beauty of a save on Zajac to again deny the Islanders an early goal.
In an attempt to jumpstart his team, Head Coach Barry Trotz switched Kyle Palmieri and Leo Komarov to create new first and third lines. The results were a drop better as Mathew Barzal rang the puck off the same post Palmieri had moments earlier, but the Nassaumen still couldn’t buy a goal.
Then, at the 12:34 mark of the first period, Cal Clutterbuck was called for roughing Nikita Kucherov in front of the benches as the Islanders were sent to their first penalty-kill of the game. On Tampa’s power-play, Leo Komarov generated a short-handed breakaway attempt but was shut down by Vasilevskiy’s blocker. That was the most newsworthy part of the Islanders’ penalty-kill as they held Tampa off the board.
That was all for the first period as Tampa registered 11 shots on goal; all of which were turned aside by Varlamov. On the other side, Vasilevskiy was hardly tested as the Isles twice rang shots off the post and only generated four shots on goal.
On to the second period and Kucherov found Brayden Point in tight against Varlamov, but the Isles’ netminder was up to the task, making the strong save at the doorstep.
Moments later, Ross Colton turned the puck over at the blue line and after some nifty puck work by Anthony Beauvillier in Tampa’s zone and a spinning cross-ice pass from Brock Nelson, Josh Bailey fired a shot through Ryan McDonagh’s legs, over Vasilevskiy’s glove and into the Lightning net for the 1-0 Islanders lead at 5:30 of the second period.
After Bailey’s goal, the Islanders played like a brand new team, cycling through possessions and attacking relentlessly with all four lines while getting support from the defense up high, who helped pinch the puck in the offensive zone.
At the 13:46 mark of the middle period, Cal Clutterbuck fired a shot through a screen from the point that Vasilevskiy couldn’t handle and the puck trickled away from Tampa’s netminder, right to the stick of Mathew Barzal, who was left all alone in front of the net. Barzal banged home the loose puck and it was 2-0 Islanders.
Following the goal, Mikhail Sergachev and Kyle Palmieri exchanged coincidental minors for cross-checking and unsportsmanlike conduct, respectively, to force the teams to skate four-aside. Then, 46-seconds later, Erik Cernak was called for cross-checking Beauvillier to put the Islanders on their first power-play of the game.
The Isles power-play was four-on-three for 1:14 and then five-on-four the rest of the way.
Shortly after the Isles’ power-play expired, Adam Pelech forced a turnover in Tampa’s zone and on the ensuing cycle, Matt Martin put a backhander past Vasilevskiy to increase New York’s lead to 3-0 with 2:03 left in the second period.
Tampa challenged the goal on the grounds of it being offside but a video review confirmed the goal was indeed onside, so, the Lightning were assessed a delay of game penalty. On their second power-play of the period the Islanders were unable to get anything going, however they did take time off the clock, which is always helpful. So, after two periods of play, the Boys from Long Island led Tampa 3-0 and were 20-minutes away from tying the series at two-games apiece.
In the third period the Isles carried over much of their momentum from the second period in the opening minutes as they had their sticks in all the right places to break up Tampa’s attempts at generating offense. Unfortunately, that didn’t last as Brayden Point took advantage of Andy Greene and fired a long-range shot past Varlamov to cut the Islander lead to 3-1 at the 3:45 mark of the third period.
Point’s goal turned the tide of the game as the Lightning began to push back and very quickly they made it 3-2 off a shot from Tyler Johnson, which raised the blood pressure of every Isles’ fan in the building, at home or wherever they may be.
Tampa continued to apply pressure to the Islanders as they searched for the game-tying goal and had it not been for Semyon Varlamov, they would have gotten it. Varlamov made numerous impressive saves, including on a one-timer from Kucherov that he just managed to get over to the left post to snare with his glove.
Varlamov’s saves seemed to inspire the Islanders as they finally started to push back with under five-minutes to play. Then, with 1:50 to go in regulation, Vasilevskiy went to the bench for the extra attacker as Tampa’s desperation set in.
An extra effort play by Clutterbuck in Tampa’s zone led to Victor Hedman tripping up the Isles’ winger with 1:12 to go and that sent New York to the power-play for the third time in the game.
On the power-play, the Islanders didn’t manage to get anything going and that allowed Ryan McDonagh to nearly tie the game with time winding down. McDonagh spun around a diving Brock Nelson, past a way out of his net Varlamov and fired a spin-o-rama towards the Isles’ vacated net. Ryan Pulock slid over, dived in front of the net and kept the puck out as the clock finally ran out to save the game and send the Islanders to Tampa for Game Five with the series tied two-two.
The Isles went 0-for-3 on the power-play to go to 1-for-11 in the series and 10-for-43 in the playoffs…The Isles went 1-for-1 on the penalty-kill to go to 7-for-9 in the series and 23-for-35 in the playoffs…Mathew Barzal’s second period goal was his sixth goal in his last eight games.
Game 5 — Monday June 21st Islanders at Lightning at Amalie Arena at 8pm(EST).
TV: NBCSN, TVAS, CBC, SN
Radio: 88.7FM WRHU