TAMPA — The Tampa Bay Lightning eliminated the New York Islanders from the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 1-0 win over New York in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals. It had been the first time the Islanders had been one win away from reaching the Stanley Cup Final since 1984.
How it Happened: Tampa Bay began the game like they had done so many times before, by scoring the first goal. It was an especially crushing goal against the Islanders, who had been on the man advantage when Tampa broke the scoreless tie at the 1:49 mark of the second period. After taking the puck into the Islanders’ end to kill time off the penalty, Anthony Cirelli drew two Islanders to him in the corner and was able to move the puck to a wide-open Yanni Gourde.
Gourde was able to put a quick shot past the glove of Semyon Varlamov to make it 1-0 Tampa. The goal served as the only one for either team during the final game of an entertaining rematch between the Islanders and Tampa.
Barzal Whiffs: It may be the play that haunts Mathew Barzal for some time after this. With a chance to tie the game in the closing minutes, Barzal had the puck bounce over his stick with Andrei Vasilevskiy caught off guard.
Deja Vu: There have been plenty of parallels between the New York Islanders current run in the playoffs and different generations of the organization, but Game 6 and Game 7 played out nearly identically to what occurred against the Wahington Capitals in 2015. The Islanders gutted out a hard-fought win in Game 6 against Washington with the prospects of their season ending and the Nassau Coliseum doors closing for good (or so we thought back then). Then out of gas, the Islanders lost a heartbreaker in Game 7.
It certainly felt like the Islanders had found themselves in a similar spot when the final buzzer sounded and they had lost a close game, but one that they had been outplayed in. The Islanders registered just 11 shots through the first two periods and they had been out-attempted 37-24 five-on-five in the same time frame. The Islanders were never able to establish their game and looked as though they had left it all on the ice in Game 6.
Varlamov’s Valient Effort: The New York Islanders netminder did just about anything he could to keep the puck out of the net. The Islanders sluggish play left plenty of opportunities for Tampa to put the game out of reach, but the veteran goaltender was up for the challenge. Varlamov finished the night with 30 saves, which included several critical stops like one on Yanni Gourde after Jean-Gabriel Pageau coughed up the puck in his own zone allowing for the dangerous opportunity in the second period.
Beat at Their Own Game: The New York Islanders found some momentum at the beginning of the third period when they found some pushback and zone time. But the chances and shot quality was never that dangerous for Tampa, which kept the Islanders to the outside and while New York had four scoring chances, according to Natural Stat Trick, with only one of them being a high danger chance. Tampa Bay also masterfully clogged the lanes, finishing the game with 21 blocks