Saturday not only did the Bolts head out to Edmonton, Alberta to prepare for the Eastern Conference Finals, but they finally found out who their opponent would be after the New York Islanders shut out the Flyers 4-0. The Bolts series against the Bruins displayed a lot of confidence and a continued rhythm, something Tampa Bay carried over into game 1 against the Islanders last night regardless of a week off.
Sticking with the 3rd line for face off, Coach Cooper started Goodrow, Gourde and Coleman. McDonagh, and Schenn paired for defense and Vasy in goal. A little over a minute into the 1st period Coleman gives a pass at center to Point and in Point fashion, he presses pass Islanders defenseman, Ryan Pulock up to the blue paint for a Tampa Bay goal. Post-game Gourde said, “you know it’s going to be a good night when you see that. Point is a very talented player and that was a great goal”. Moments after, Eberle levels the playing field on a power play making it 1-1. Close to the hallway mark of the 1st with 18 seconds left, the Lightning prove their new power play consistency, as Hedman gets a slap slot goal taking Tampa up 2-1. Over the past couple of games you can tell McDonagh was itching for a goal and roughly two and a half minutes later, a passing sequence from Sergachev to Kucherov, Kucherov to McDonagh gives the Bolts a 3-1 lead and causes the Islanders to pull Greiss from the net and play Varlamov.
2nd period, Lightning hit the ice with a chip on their should, working New York’s O-zone. Nearly 5 minutes in Maroon chargers to the blue paint for a chance to score, the puck slides behind Varlamov’s skate, Gourde follows up getting his stick on the puck, but the delayed siren kept they guys in play until it was recognized as Tampa’s 4th goal. Gourde on the goal said, “I knew there was a chance that it could have been in… It goes so fast; I didn’t know if the puck actually crossed the line right away”. As the clock for the 2nd period ran down, the Bolts found themselves with an added power play opportunity. Hedman once again with a long shot, but this time the puck is tapped in midair by Point extending Tampa’s lead to 5-1.
After a strong 40 minutes of play, the Lightning didn’t let off the gas for the last 20 minutes. 6 minutes into the 3rd, Point and Kucherov doing what they do best. On a pass from Shattenkirk, Kucherov gets the puck, turns his blade up on a touch pass with confidence that Point would make it up the right side, then Point with a perfect pass in gives Kucherov an opportunity to score on the 5th hole for Tampa’s 6th goal of the night. After the game Kucherov was asked about his ability to pick up where Point would be, he said he knows Pointer has good speed and he knew he would step up. As for Point’s thoughts on the play, “it was a special play, just a great play. He’s one of those guys that’s so good with the puck. That’s something I don’t think I’ve seen before”. 11:14 left in the 3rd, the Islanders finally get another goal on the board thanks to Nick Leddy. In response, Point drops the puck back to Kucherov, Kucherov passes it back to Point and Point trails in a pass to Palat for a 7-1 lead! Under 7 minutes left in the 3rd, Tampa picks up another power play, that Gourde capitalizes on for his 2nd goal of the game and an 8-2 game 1 win for the Lightning. Hedman on the outstanding game 1 performance, “confidence wise it’s obviously good, but It’s playoff, it’s one game I still think they’re parts of our game that we can be better at. We expect them to bring it next game, but we also expect ourselves to raise our game”. Game 2 will take place Wednesday at 8pm and we’ll see if the Islanders can even the series or if the Bolts up their game for a 2-0 series lead.