It was nervy at times, but the New York Islanders take Game 3 over the Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 5-3.
Game 3 was a must-win for the New York Islanders. Going down 3-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals was not possible. Virtually no team comes back from that type of deficit.
With Casey Cizikas out of the lineup for the New York Islanders in Game 3, it was the next man up for the Isles. Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck were pushed up to line three with Jean-Gabriel Pageau while Derick Brassard and Michael Dal Colle flanked Leo Komarov on line 4.
For the Lightning, they’d be without Alex Killorn who was suspended for his hit on Brock Nelson in Game 2 and Brayden Point was unfit to play.
Can’t Keep A Lead
The takeaway for the Islanders after Game 2 was: shoot. Just shoot the puck. Too often they passed it around the perimeter or decided to pass on clear shooting opportunities. They got the memo in Game 3.
Through the first 20 minutes, the Islanders hit 16 shots against Andrei Vasilevskiy. Fourteen were scoring chances, seven were high danger chances, and the Isles held a 1.31 xGF%.
With all that traffic, eventually, the Isles found the back of the net after the Tampa Bay Lightning just stopped playing. Vasilevskiy thought he’d get a whistle because a strap came undone on his pad but with no whistle, the Isles kept going and Cal Clutterbuck found the back of the net.
But as is the case in this series; nothing good ever lasts.
A few minutes later Cal Clutterbuck fails to cover Mikhail Sergachev as he loops in behind him to bury the easy backhand over Semyon Varlamov. And just like the game was tied.
This feels like the 2016 to 2018 Islanders where they just couldn’t keep a lead.
There are very few good nicknames in hockey. It’s usually some abbreviated form of a player’s last name with a ‘y’ added at the end. So it surprises me that the nickname former Islanders assistant coach Greg Cronin gave to Adam Pelech didn’t stick. Because “The Cobra” is amazing.
Eleven minutes and change into the second, the cobra struck to break the deadlock with some quick and nifty passing between Barzal and Pageau.
Exactly two minutes later Anthony Beauvillier, who hadn’t scored a goal in this series yet and only had a single goal since August 29 also tickled the twine. After being the guy for the Isles, Beau had gone cold recently. Getting on the sheet was hugely important for Beau.
Brock Nelson deserves a ton of credit for this play. While Beau was at the right place at the right time, Nelson carved out that goal with some incredible patience.
Tampa mustered some resistance in the second but Semyon Varlamov stood tall and kept a clean sheet in the second frame to preserve the two-goal lead.
Low Lows and High Highs
Play stupid games, you win stupid prizes, right? With a two-goal lead, taking unnecessary penalties against a team like Tampa is a stupid game to play. Cue Jordan Eberle holding Erick Cernak in the offensive zone 1:53 into the third period.
Of course, the Lightning would score on the ensuing power play through Ondrej Palat. What’s worse is it comes off an Islanders turnover in the offensive zone. Win stupid prizes.
Tampa pushed to get an equalizer and continually found success at getting shots off from the blueline. After perhaps the sixth or seventh attempt in a minute, Tyler Johnson was able to redirect (with a high stick) a Cernak point shot to tie it up at three.
The Islanders were playing well. Their goalie was playing well. But every mistake they made resulted in a goal against.
Until 16:36 in the third when Anthony Beauvillier sets up Brock Nelson with an incredible no-look spin around cross-slot pass for the go-ahead goal.
With a goal and a helper, Beau had his first multi-point game in the postseason since Game 5 against the Washington Capital. Again, it was a much needed offensive flurry from the Isles second line.
Chaos ensued as Pageau put the Isles up 5-3 with an empty-net goal late in the third. As he’s about to dish the puck into the empty cage, Nikita Kurechov who was playing throwback with an 80’s style hook on Pageau continued his 80’s style play as he two hands Pageau on the knee.
That, combined with the shenanigans that went on in Game 2 that saw Alex Killorn suspended a game and what should have seen Barclay Goodrow also suspended a game, it’s clear the Tampa Bay Lightning are ready to goon it up in this series.
Brock Nelson: 1 GWG, 1A
Anthony Beauvillier: 1G, 1A
Adam Pelech: 1G, +4
Ryan McDonagh: -3
Andrei Vasilevskiy: 31 saves, 0.886SV%