The Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders took to the ice in Nassau Coliseum with the Lightning holding a 2-1 series lead. Looking to take a commanding lead, the Islanders had other plans. With a first period that hinted towards something to come, the second period of domination, and Ryan Pulock making the save of the year, Game 4 was full of drama.
Ryan Pulock Late Heroics Even Series For Islanders
Lightning Versus Islanders Heading In
Heading into Game 4, the Lightning were up 2-1 over the Islanders. Looking to take a commanding 3-1 lead, similar to their first two rounds. On the other side, the Islanders were down 2-1 in both of their first two rounds, just to win the subsequent three games, winning the series. Which pattern would continue in Nassau Coliseum?
In the first period, the Lightning came out strong. They had the first truly strong look and peppered Semyon Varlamov with shots. Ending the period with an 11 to four advantage in shots. However, shots simply do not tell the whole story. While the Lightning stood out in that area, while also flashing dangerous opportunities offensively. Varlamov’s play in the first gave the Islanders a chance to continue to build upon the play they established in the first.
The Islanders dominated in spurts throughout the first, but it did not lead to very many scoring chances. They held the puck in, played relentlessly when forechecking, and worked the puck around for long periods of time. At times, they’d wear out Lightning defenders, force star players like Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point into mistakes, and picked their spots. They just couldn’t solve Andrei Vasilevskiy and required the lights-out play of Varlamov to survive the first.
In the second period, the Islanders completely took over. Scoring three unanswered goals, they established all of the momentum. The first Islanders goal, scored by Josh Bailey, was established by strong coverage against a Lightning rush. Rookie Ross Colton failed to gain entry at the other end of the ice, and the Islanders quickly moved the puck up ice. Upon entering the zone, Anthony Beauvillier ate a hit to take one Lightning defender out of the play. Brock Nelson scooped up the puck, drew in an additional two Lightning defenders, then spun a backhand pass to Bailey. Bailey unleashed a wicked shot, with Vasilevskiy helpless.
On the second Islanders goal, the Islanders held the Lightning in their own end for an extended period. They worked the puck around the point area. Knowing Point was without a stick down low, virtually putting the Lightning short-handed, Clutterbuck sent a long-distance shot on net, through traffic. Mathew Barzal, who was left alone in front, easily put home the rebound. Point should have been there, and likely could’ve broken the play-up if he had a sick.
Finally, the third goal. Matt Martin was the Islander who scored on this one. It started with a Point giveaway in the defensive end. Adam Pelech held the zone, worked it to Clutterbuck who missed the net. Pelech pinched in deep, took an odd-angle shot low, allowing for a rebound. The puck found its way to Martin, who back-handed a shot past Vasilevskiy. The Lightning challenged for offsides but was unsuccessful.
The third period saw a bit more of what fans are used to between these two things. The Lightning looked fast, getting after pucks offensively and trying to swing the momentum. Finally, Lightning struck, with Point extending his playoff goals streak to seven games. It started with a clean break-out by Erik Cernak. Point, flying through the neutral zone, entered the offensive end by himself. With three Islanders in front of him, Point cut towards the middle, used one defender as a screen on Varlamov, and ripped a shot past the blocker to bring the game within two.
A few minutes later, Tyler Johnson made it interesting. Again, it’s a clean entry for the Lightning. This time, it’s McDonagh sending the pass-up ice, aimed for Kucherov. Kucherov slows down and stalks the ice. He set up Johnson in the high slot, and he sent a shot wide. Staying in pursuit, Johnson sent an in-tight, odd-angle shot that was fought off by Varlamov. Again, staying with the puck, Johnson retains possession once more, turning back towards the net from the left wall. He toe-dragged around Bailey, entered the mid-slot, and absolutely sniped the top corner to beat the Islanders net-minder once again.
Pulock’s Heroics In Islanders Versus Lightning
Unfortunately for Lightning fans, that’s all the scoring for the remainder of the game. The Islanders dominated possession for a stretch, not allowing the Lightning to truly set up. Once they pulled Vasilevskiy, however, the Lightning earned a few more looks, but still could not beat Varlamov. The Islanders cleared and drew a penalty on Victor Hedman, a key member of the Lightning, for a tripping call. The Lightning would get one final look. McDonagh received a pass in the low slot with about five seconds left, spun around a sprawling defender and Varlamov, and sent a backhand shot towards an empty net… or so he thought. Ryan Pulock came sprawling through the crease and barely kept the puck out of the net with less than three seconds left in regulation to secure the Islanders win.
The Islanders and Lightning head into Game 5 tied at 2-2. And if it wasn’t for Ryan Pulock preventing Game 4 from going into overtime, who knows what this series would look like heading back to Tampa. This time, it’ll be played in Amalie Arena, on Monday, June 21st, at 8 pm eastern time. With Game 4 being played similarly to Game 1, with a lot of bad turnovers and the Islanders controlling the pace, expect the Lightning to come back home with a vengeance.
As for the Islanders, if their fourth line can continue to impact the game, especially the way they did tonight, then they can continue the pattern of winning three straight games to close out a series, despite starting down 2-1. The Islanders will need the same intensity for Ryan Pulock when Game 5. This time they hold Varlamov is not out of position and he does not need to may another series-defining save.
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