Now it’s a series.
Brock Nelson scored with 3:25 left in regulation to snap a 3-3 tie after the Islanders couldn’t hold a 3-1 third period lead and the Isles would go on to beat the Lightning 5-3 in game three of the Eastern Conference Final Friday night in Edmonton. With the win, the Islanders cut Tampa Bay’s lead in the series to two games to one heading into game four on Sunday afternoon (3pm NBC).
It was appropriate that Nelson scored the game winner after he was on the receiving end of a hit from behind in the second period of game two from Alex Killorn who was suspended for game three. After a Tampa Bay turnover, Anthony Beauvillier sent a beautiful pass to Nelson who fired it past Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.
“It’s nice to get a bounce back win,” said Nelson. “Beau made a nice play. He got stopped on the first win but stuck with it, found me and it’s nice to get that win.”
It was a must win for the Islanders and they found a way to pull it out after going through yet another round of adversity in that third period. The Islanders were able to bounce back after losses in games five and six against the Flyers before winning game seven. And now the Islanders have rebounded after a last second loss in game two against Tampa and letting the third period lead slip away.
“The way the guys are…the way we are…I just think we’ve come too far,” said forward Cal Clutterbuck who scored his second goal of the playoffs in the first period to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead. “I don’t think packing it in is really a part of this team.”
In addition to Killorn being suspended, the Lightning were also without their injured leading scorer Brayden Point while Islanders forward Casey Cizikas was unavailable because of an injury. Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz inserted forwards Derick Brassard and Michael Dal Colle into the lineup to replace Cizikas and Andrew Ladd who was a healthy scratch.
J.G. Pageau took Cizikas’ spot on the fourth line but now the Islanders are keeping their fingers crossed that Cizikas will be able to play in game four.
“Casey is one of those guys that is infectious in your dressing room,” said Trotz. “He’s been an Islander since he’s come into the league. He’s a big part of the identity that we have. I sort of had an inclination (Thursday) and he wasn’t available (for game three). We’ll see where it is. We’ve got another day here. From that standpoint, I thought our team responded pretty well.”
Islanders/Lightning Eastern Conference Final Schedule:
Game 1: Monday September 7th…Lightning 8 Islanders 2 (Tampa Bay leads 1-0)
Game 2: Wednesday September 9th…Lightning 2 Islanders 1 (Tampa Bay leads 2-0)
Game 3: Friday September 11th…Islanders 5 Lightning 3 (Tampa Bay leads 2-1)
Game 4: Sunday September 13th…Lightning vs Islanders…3pm NBC
Game 5: Tuesday September 15th…Islanders vs Lightning…8pm NBCSN
Game 6: Thursday September 17th…Lightning vs Islanders…8pm NBCSN (If Necessary)
Game 7: Saturday September 19th…Islanders vs Lightning…730pm NBC (If Necessary)
After Clutterbuck opened the scoring in the first period, Mikhail Sergachev scored for Tampa Bay and the game was tied 1-1 at the first intermission but Adam Pelech and Beauvillier scored second period goals to give the Islanders a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes. Pelech became the 17th different Islander to score a goal during this postseason, the most since the 1983 Islanders had 18 different goal scorers on their way to a 4th straight Stanley Cup.
“With us it could be anyone getting the big goal,” said Pelech who scored his first career playoff goal. “I think everyone on this team has made huge contributions this postseason and I think that’s a big reason why we’re having this success.”
For Beauvillier, it was his 9th goal of the playoffs. Mat Barzal notched an assist on the Pelech goal and he becomes the 7th player 23 years old or younger to get at least ten assists in one post-season joining the likes of Denis Potvin, Mike Bossy, and Bryan Trottier. Ryan Pulock and Devon Toews each picked up their 8th assists of the postseason , the most by an Islanders defenseman in a single post-season in the post Stanley Cup era. Josh Bailey picked up two assists and now 17 which ties him for most by any player in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In the third, Ondrej Palat scored a power play goal at 2:32 and then Tyler Johnson tipped in the equalizer at 12:04 setting the scene for Nelson’s heroics. J.G. Pageau scored an empty-netter, his 8th goal of the playoffs, to round out the scoring and Semyon Varlamov was outstanding throughout the game making 34 saves.
“He was really good,” said Trotz. “He made very timely, big saves for us and that’s what you need in the playoffs.”
After a blowout loss in game one and a heartbreaking loss in game two when Tampa Bay scored the game winning goal with less than nine seconds remaining in regulation, the Islanders are in the win column and they have a chance to even the series on Sunday.