Lightning choke the life out of Islanders to advance to Stanley Cup Final.
Tampa Bay Wins the Series 4-3
Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped all 18 shots he faced for his fourth straight series clinching shut out going back to last season’s Stanley Cup Final against Dallas. As good as Carey Price’s numbers have been on the other side of the playoff bracket, Vasiy’s have actually been better.
1:49 TB Gourde (5), (Cirelli, Killorn)(SH)
Yanni Gourde, Ryan McDonagh, and Barclay Goodrow were the game’s three stars.
After all the hand wringing about the officials. After all the fears about Nikita Kucherov’s health. After all the concerns the team hasn’t measured up the last two times they faced Game Sevens. The Lightning went out tonight and played one of the most focused and professional hockey games in the franchise’s history. They choked the life out of the New York Islanders with a possession tour de force that allowed just 18 shots on goal to New York and included a final shift where the Lightning spent extended zone time sitting on the puck in the corner with the Islanders on a 6-on-5 extra attacker advantage. The hustle. The attention to detail. The connection between the players on the team to pick each other up when the moment called for it. The Lightning weathered all the adversity this series could throw at them and just walked out clean on the other side with the meddle tested and recertified. I have a hard time picking out individual players to throw plaudits at because I can think of a handful of plays where pretty much every player on the club went above and beyond when it was their time to pull on the rope to get this series across the finish line once and for all. And because of that, I’m not going to tarnish my comments by focusing on anything but the outstanding performance by those athletes tonight. Not the officiating (the Lightning did get their one goal on the lone power play of the game… it just happened to be the Isles power play), not the Islanders and Trotz’s dubious (dirty) tactics, not the infantile belligerence of the Islanders’ undeservedly entitled fans (with their little brother complexes and big city arrogance), nor even Ed Olczyk and NBCSN’s unwavering cheerleading for that team. Gonna let it slide. This is a night and a time for the players of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
On to the Stanley Cup Final against Montreal, a team that has to be reckoned with even if they don’t have the paper pedigree of other teams the Lightning have faced. They have a veteran backbone from the net out with Price and their seasoned defensive corps. And, they have a quick and skilled little group of young forwards. Three series wins isn’t an accident. The Lightning have to take the Canadiens seriously. Should they win the series? Yes. But they’ll need the same kind of intense possession-based game that really taxes that slower, older Montreal defensive corps and gets a ton of pucks on Price if they want to finish off the mission. It’s all there for them now, though, and you can tell the older players on the team can smell the championship finish line. Still a lot of work to be done, though.
Ross Colton had 2 hits in 11:16. That fourth line was a mixed bag all series long. When they were playing downhill in the offensive zone they were a load to deal with. Frightening as heck defending in their own end, though. More good than bad tonight, and they definitely contributed mightily to the big W.