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Season Over: Islanders Playoff Run Ends in Game 6 OT Loss

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The New York Islanders Staved off the Tampa Bay Lightning through the first two periods and survived a double minor penalty that went into overtime, but in the end the Islanders couldn’t force a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Anthony Cirelli scored 13:18 into overtime to send the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup Final and end the New York Islanders season in a 2-1 loss. The 2019-20 season marked the Islanders’ best year since their run to the conference finals in 1993, which also shocked the hockey world.

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“It’s a special group in our room,” Islanders captain Anders Lee said. “Until that very last minute it’s just every single one of us believed in each other. And what we were doing and the road we were on. Obviously we come up short, but there is just a huge sense of pride right now in every single one of those guys.”

Cirelli’s game-winning goal came off a pass from Barclay Goodrow behind the net. The shot from right in front went off the left post and then glided along the goal line, and went in off Semyon Varlamov’s pad.

Thursday’s game was the second consecutive contest that New York and Tampa played that needed to be solved in overtime. On Tuesday, the Islanders gutted out a 2-1 win in double overtime.

Islanders coach Barry Trotz opted to play 11 forwards and seven defensemen with blue line mainstay Adam Pelech unavailable for Game 6. Trotz revealed after the game that Pelech had been injured in Game 5 early on played through the injury on adrenaline.

Pelech’s absence was felt on the Islanders’ blue line on Thursday. New York struggled for the better part of the first 40 minutes.

Tampa finished the first period outshooting the Islanders 17-6 and out attempting them 37-17. The second period wasn’t much better for the Islanders as they were again outshot, 10-6.

Game 6 was another goaltending duel between Varlamov and Tampa Bay starter Andrei Vasilevskiy. Varlamov made 46 saves, which included stopping a barrage of shots through the first 40 minutes. Vasilevskiy didn’t see nearly as many pucks, but finished the night with 26 saves.

“He’s a stud,” Devon Toews said in reference to Varlamov’s play. “The last few nights I think we’ve given up a few more shots than we kind of wanted to. … The saves he’s making in big moments is huge. It just keeps us going, it re-energizes us and we can see that he’s battling there for us. We’re just trying to battle in front of him.”

Vasilevskiy’s biggest stop came in the overtime period with the Islanders on the penalty kill. Brock Nelson forced a neutral zone turnover and got a shorthanded breakaway. The Tampa netminder turned away the potentially game-ending shot.

“When Brock stole the puck I thought (it) was only fitting,” Trotz said. “We’d been battling through the penalties and these different situations. I thought it was going to be our time to get it to Game 7. Unfortunately, their goaltender is good.

“They have a great team.”

The Islanders found the back of the net first on Thursday. Devon Toews scored on a wraparound 4:15 into the first period after Anders Lee found the Isles’ defenseman down low.

Toews took the puck behind the net and put it past Vasilevskiy, who was caught out of position.

However, the tide quickly turned for New York and Tampa took control of the game.

The lead last just over two minutes before Tampa Bay answered back with a goal of their own. Varlamov stopped a shot from the point, but Victor Hedman got to the rebound undetected and scored at 6:28.

It was the fourth game that Tampa Bay has responded with a goal within four minutes of the Islanders scoring.

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