In one of the more crucial games of the series, Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final was a defensive battle between the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders. Outside of the three goals in 27 seconds in the second period, goals were hard to come by. With the Lightning scoring two goals in 12 seconds. The Lightning added two more goals including one by the returning Brayden Point to defeat the Islanders by a score of 4-1. Game 4 was one of the more physical games of the series as well. Neither team wanting to give the other an inch. However, it was the Lightning’s quick outburst in the second period that has them up 3-1 lead in the series.
Brayden Point Return Propels Tampa Bay Lightnin To Victory
All it took was 27 seconds in the second period for the offence to take over in this game and wake up the Lightning. After a scoreless first period and in the midst of a goalie duel in period two, Brock Nelson made it 1-0 Islanders. However, the Islanders held the lead for 15 seconds before Blake Coleman tied the game at 1-1. Coleman was set up by a beautiful pass by Yanni Gourde. Gourde stretched the ice with a beautiful saucer pass to the tape of Coleman. Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov tried to poke check the puck away but Coleman went around him and potted the puck into the empty net. Twelve seconds later the Lightning took the lead on a goal from Ondrej Palat. That goal turned out to be the game-winner.
Having Brayden Point back in the lineup made a world of difference for the Lightning. In the third period, Brayden Point extended the Lightning’s lead when he tipped home a pass from Palat to make it 3-1. The line of Palat, Point, and Nikita Kucherov was on fire again. The line combined for six points on the night. They combined for 10 points and Game 1 and picked up where they left off in Game 4. And that line outplayed the line of Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee, and Jordan Eberle for the Islanders. When the game was still 2-1, the top line for the Lightning instead of sitting back was being aggressive with an attacking cycle looking for more goals. When an offensive line can pin a team in their own defensive zone, that bolds well for you.
The Lightning are just too deep with their ability to roll four lines constantly. Each line can forecheck so well and can score goals. With the net empty, Pat Maroon picked up his first goal of the season icing the game as he made it 4-1. Having the ability to create turnovers helps relieve the pressure on the defence. As we have seen through four games the Lightning have just too many weapons.
Both Semyon Varlamov and Andrei Vasilevskiy have been on point. With Varlamov, he is gaining confidence with every passing shift. While he may have lost that confidence in the previous series, Varlamov has stood tall. He is the main reason why the Islanders are in any of these games. Especially these last three games. Varlamov has given the Islanders a chance to win all three of these games. The offence has run dry for both teams, but that is a credit to how good these goaltenders both are. Varlamov came up with huge saves for the Islanders in the second and third periods with his team trailing. He needed to be equal if not better than Vasilevskiy. Unfortunately, at times in this series the way Tampa Bay is playing, Varlamov had to be better than Vasilevskiy.
Vasilevskiy continues to show why he is up for the Vezina Trophy again this season. Whenever the Islanders had a power play in this series or were cycling down low, there was Vasilevskiy with the big save. No matter where the puck was on the ice in the Lightning defensive zone, Vasilevskiy was always in a position to stop an Islanders shot. Even after he gave up the first goal to Nelson, Vasilevskiy remained calm and cool in the net. Having a goaltender like Vasilevskiy allows the Lightning to keep playing their style of hockey regardless of the score. Whether the Lightning are down two or up one, the Lightning know with Vasilevskiy in net the game will remain close until the final horn.
In one of the more physical games of the series, the Lightning and Islanders pulled no punches. Granted the physicality ramped up after the Alex Killorn hit on Brock Nelson in Game 2. From there the teams’ hatred for each other went to another level. Prior to the start of Game 4, Matt Martin had some words with Killorn and Luke Schenn. Some of the hostility could stem from Schenn’s hit on Casey Cizikas, who is out for the remainder of the players. But whatever the case is, the two teams decided that Game 4 was time to increase the physicality. After every whistle, there was a pile of players pushing and shoving. At the end of period one, Martin shot a puck a half a second late at Vasilevskiy on the ice. Kevin Shattenkirk and the rest of the Lightning players did not take too kindly to that. Martin and Shattenkirk had a wrestling match, while Gourde and Cal Clutterbuck exchanged some punches.
Typically the Lightning do not want to get into the rough stuff with the Islanders. But now they have the bodies to do so. A lot of the physical play coming from the Islanders is frustration because of the hits earlier in the series. Now is not the time for revenge. However, the Islanders have been able to cause turnovers when they use the physical play to their advantage as we saw in the first goal by Nelson. If the rest of the series is going to be played in the trenches then advantage Islanders. However, the Lightning can deliver some hits of their own and have shown they can play any style to win games in the playoffs.
Heading Into Game 5
With Lightning leading the series 3-1, they have a chance to advance to the Stanley Cup Final with a win in Game 5. Heading into Game 5, the Lightning do not have to change much. It will be interesting to see if Brayden Point plays because he was skating gingerly towards the end of Game 4. For the Islanders, it is do or die time. Goaltending is not the problem. The problem is scoring goals and scoring goals on the power play. That is the difference in this series. If the Islanders can do that we will have a Game 6, if not the Lightning are off to the Stanley Cup Final.
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