The Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders have finished Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals. It was a close one all the way through with the New York Islanders winning by a score of 2-1 in double overtime. They have forced a Game 6 that will go Thursday night. Jordan Eberle buried the game-winner.
Jordan Eberle Wins It
Islanders Defence Stands Tall in First
The first period of this game saw an impressive defensive effort by the New York Islanders. An early powerplay gave the Lightning an opportunity to seize control of the game. Tampa Bay applied consistent pressure to make a deadly special teams unit look as dangerous as ever. Islanders defenceman Johnny Boychuk stood tall in front of the net. With a crucial shot block, he contributed to a penalty killed off. A strong effort in the defensive zone paid off. A strong penalty kill unit brought momentum to New York’s squad.
While the Islanders never truly dominated possession in the offensive zone, they did an excellent of keeping the puck of Tampa Bay’s sticks for long periods of time. Neither team was able to truly set up their offence. The Islanders commitment to strong defensive play eventually led to a tripping penalty by Nikita Kucherov. While their special teams unit did not look as good as Tampa Bay’s, New York took full advantage. Ryan Pulock sent a powerful 101 mph slapshot flying into the net with just over four minutes remaining in the period.
Boychuk didn’t stop his domination in the defensive zone after Tampa’s initial powerplay. Boychuk stepped in front of another shot late in the period. This shot would be enough to knock the blade out of his skate. With Tampa in the offensive zone, this appeared to be a golden opportunity for the Lightning to even things up. Excellent team play by New York was able to get the puck out of the zone and far enough away for Boychuck to get off the ice.
The defence has long been New York’s specialty. The Islanders have only eclipsed two goals in one game this series, their only win thus far. It has not been enough to win games. If they want to push forward to the Stanley Cup Finals, they need to figure out their offensive game. They cannot continue to rely solely on defence to win games as they have so far in these playoffs.
Early in the second period, Victor Hedman was able to tie the game with a shot between the faceoff dots. With the top forward unit looking to take the lead, Kucherov laid a hit on Brock Nelson. That hit would clearly shake up Kucherov. He was slow to return to the bench, supporting his wrist the entire way. Without Kucherov at 100%, Tampa Bay needed help from an unlikely source. A goal by Carter Verhaeghe appeared to make this game 2-1. That goal would be overturned on an offsides review initiated by Barry Trotz. A quick review showed no doubt. So instead of going into the final period tied, they still needed to fight for another goal.
Injury Scares Haunt Tampa Bay in the Second
The biggest thing for Tampa Bay in the second period was their effort on defence. Former Buffalo Sabre Zach Bogosian broke up a highly dangerous two on one opportunity for the Islanders. Following a hold by Cedric Paquette just seconds later, New York was able to establish an impressive amount of zone time on a delayed penalty. They essentially doubled their powerplay with roughly two straight minutes passing the puck in the offensive zone. Tampa Bay not only held them without a goal at this dangerous opportunity but for the remainder of the period.
If Tampa Bay can continue to play defence the way they have, they could win the Stanley Cup. They have been incredible at limiting chances against. They must maintain this if they want to move forward. Injuries for this team are concerning. Steven Stamkos has not played at all in the bubble. A potential Conn Smythe winner, Brayden Point was injured earlier in the series and missed tonight’s game. Already missing two star forwards, they simply cannot afford to lose Kucherov long term. Should he be out for any period of time, this defensive play could be enough to propel them to the next round.
Uneventful Third Period
Uneventful is the best way to describe the third period. It wasn’t boring per se, as playoff hockey where the next goal could end it will always keep you on the edge of your seat. But it was two teams who know how to check well and don’t give much up. Both teams didn’t want to make any kind of mistake as it may have sealed the game.
The Islanders went 12 minutes without a shot between the end of the second and the start of the third period. Their first shot of the third came almost halfway through the period. Despite that, the score remained 1-1 and it gave the Isles a chance to remain in the series. While the Islanders didn’t generate much, they certainly didn’t let much up either. The shots were 19-15 Tampa with seven minutes left in the third period.
With 1:23 left Anthony Beauvillier‘s stick caught Mikhail Sergachev up high and it ended up drawing blood. The Lightning would get the perfect opportunity to put the game and series away. The Lightning’s power play had operated at 19% during these playoffs. However, the first 1:23 saw nothing come for the Lightning. These two teams would have to settle the game in more than just 60 minutes as overtime was on the horizon.
Jordan Eberle Wins in Double Overtime
The Lightning started the first overtime on the power play and had a couple of really nice chances but Semyon Varlamov shut the door on every opportunity. The teams continued to trade rushes back and forth, as much of this series has gone. They both waited until the right time to strike, leading to a quick rush one way or the other. The teams continued this way as they have most of the series, and it would lead to a second overtime.
The second overtime was much of the same until the Islanders found their spot. Nearing the end of 2OT, a 2-on-1 broke out and captain Anders Lee shot a pass over to Jordan Eberle who buried it for the win. Game 6 will now go Thursday night as once again, the Islanders will need a win to keep their season alive. The Dallas Stars still await the winner of this series.