The New York Islanders picked up a huge win last night, beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-3 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final and cutting the Lightning’s series lead in half.
Semyon Varlamov bailed out the Islanders in the first 10 minutes, making some good saves after a couple of bad turnovers in the defensive end. As a result, the Islanders were able to open the scoring later in the period, when a puck got blocked and bounced right to Cal Clutterbuck, who beat Andrei Vasilevskiy. However, before the period was over, Yanni Gourde was able to find Mikhail Sergachev, who roofed it past Varlamov with a well-placed shot to tie the game.
The Islanders took the lead back in the second period, after Adam Pelech was able to pick a corner from the dot, following a great series of passes. Then exactly two minutes later, Brock Nelson made a great play to hold on to the puck, curl around the net and set up Anthony Beauvillier in front of the net, who was able to beat Vasilevskiy. At the end of the second period, the Islanders led 3-1.
Tampa Bay quickly cut the lead to one goal on a power play early in the third period, when Nikita Kucherov found Ondrej Palat in front of the net for a deflection. Then with roughly eight minutes left, Tyler Johnson tipped a point shot from Erik Cernak, and the puck completely changed direction, which fooled Varlamov. It looked like it definitely could have been ruled a high stick but just like that, New York’s lead was gone.
With just over three minutes to go, however, Anthony Beauvillier was able to feed Brock Nelson with a great pass and Nelson put it past Vasilevskiy, who was in motion towards the opposite direction. Then Jean-Gabriel Pageau would seal it with an empty net goal, which drew some attention due to Nikita Kucherov’s blatant slash at Pageau on the play.
The slash was dirty and it was clear that Kucherov had no intention of making contact with the puck. I will say that if anything good came out of the slash and the scrum that followed, it meant the Lightning were frustrated, which is exactly where the Islanders want them to be.
I thought this was a pretty even game in terms of controlling the play but personally, I thought the Islanders had the better chances overall for a second game in a row. New York has played well enough to win in two of the three games in the series and they'll need anther strong performance in Game 4 to tie up the series.
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