The Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Islanders split their opening two games of their 2nd round playoff series but it was not until the end of game two that the animosity that comes with long series began to spark. Big hits were becoming more common, face washing around the net more prevalent, and retaliatory roughing penalties were begin to appear, showing that these two teams not only wanted advance but make sure their opponent knew they were game for wherever this series heads. The tension would spill over into the pre-game of game 3 as New York’s Travis Hamonic would intentionally skate a little further over the center ice line to shoulder clip Tampa’s Brian Boyle and the two would exchange words before the puck even dropped. Heading into game 3 the Islanders knew they would need to win both home games if they hoped to keep up their newly acquired home ice advantage, while the Lightning were anxious to get a road win of their own bring the home ice back to their side with a single win in Brooklyn.
The 1st period would start with the Tampa Bay Lightning looking to carry over their strong play from game 2 as they would control the puck in the New York Islanders zone for the first three minutes of the 1st period. The Islanders goaltender Thomas Greiss would make a couple of early stops particularly on a tip shot by Lightning defender Nikita Nesterov, to keep the game tied at 0-0. After weathering the early Tampa pressure, the Islanders would begin to apply some pressure of their own utilizing efficient line changes to get favorable line match-ups and scoring chances for their top offensive line with John Tavares. The constant pressure by New York would pay off as Josh Bailey would bury an easy goal in front of the Tampa net after Nikolay Kulemin would hit him with a perfect pass after an Islanders face-off win, giving New York the early 1-0 lead in the 1st period. The Tampa Bay Lighting would make matters worse on the following shift as Alex Killorn would take a holding penalty giving the Islanders their first power play of the game. Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop would show why he is Vezina trophy finalist as he would stop several big scoring chances on the subsequent New York power play keeping the game at a one goal deficit. The Lightning would finally get some relief from the constant New York pressure, when Josh Bailey would take slashing penalty on Nikita Kucherov to give Tampa their first power play of the night. The Tampa power play would appear to tie the game after Brian Boyle would put a puck into the Islanders net after a high rebound found its way to him in front of the net but the refs would correctly rule that he had used a high stick to deflect the puck into the net, nullifying the goal and keeping the Islanders up 1-0 midway through the 1st period as they would kill the remainder of the power play. The Islanders would continue to blast close range shots at Ben Bishop and could have had at least two or three goals if it were not for some great positioning by Bishop and timely deflections by the Tampa defenseman. The Lightning would catch a late break as New York center Casey Cizikas would trip Brian Boyle near center ice, giving Tampa their 2nd power play of the game with 1:33 to go in the 1st period. The Lightning would waste this extra man opportunity as Alex Killorn would blast a shot from the point and Ryan Callahan would utilize a perfect deflection to put the puck past Thomas Greiss to tie the game at 1-1 with only 13 seconds left in the 1st period. The 1st period would end with both teams tied, despite the Islanders controlling most of the period and outshooting the Lightning 17-9.
The 2nd period would start with the Lightning looking to carry their momentum from the late power play goal into the next period and would put a couple of quality scoring chances on Greiss early but he would keep the game tied 1-1. The Islanders would see their first scoring opportunity of the period only two minutes in as a deflection would spring centerman Shane Prince on a breakaway all alone against Ben Bishop but could not get a shot off as a late charging Jason Garrison would slash his shooting hand preventing a shot but taking a penalty. The subsequent Islander power play would be killed with relative ease as the Lightning penalty kill unit would prevent New York from even getting a single shot off during their man advantage. The injury raved Lightning would have another scary incident occur when New York defenseman Thomas Hickey would completely lay out Tampa youngster Jonathan Drouin with a brutal but legal open ice check. Drouin would head straight to the Tampa locker room under his own power but clearly shaken up and would not return for the rest of the period. The Lightning would take what would look like a ‘message’ penalty as defenseman Slater Koekkoek would take a roughing penalty on Thomas Hickey for his hit on Drouin, setting up the Islanders with their third power play of the game. The Lightning penalty kill would continue their dominate play however as they would again prevent any legit scoring chances killing off the third Islanders power play successfully to keep the game tied. Tampa defenseman would break the 1-1 tie midway through the 2nd period as he would blast a pass he got from Tyler Johnson face-off win past Thomas Greiss, giving the Lightning their first lead of the game at 2-1 near the midway point of the 2nd period. The Lightning appeared to go on cruise control late in the 2nd period and the Islanders fourth line would take advantage with a long shift in the Tampa Bay zone. The Islanders constant pressure would result in a blistering low shot from defenseman Nick Leddy that would beat Ben Bishop through his five-hole, as the Tampa net minder lost track of the puck due to a screen, allowing New York to tie the game 2-2 late in the 2nd period. The teams would trade scoring chances late but both goalies would ensure the team’s head to 2nd intermission tied 2-2. The Islanders would still keep up the shots on goal advantage with a 29-26 advantage through two periods.
The 3rd period began with Islanders defenseman Casey Cizikas taking a boarding penalty only 17 seconds into the period setting up the Lightning with their third power play of the game. The Lightning power play would seem disjointed and eventually Tampa defenseman Jason Garrison would take a high-sticking penalty with about 30 seconds remaining on the Tampa power play setting up the Islanders for their fourth power play after 30 seconds of 4 on 4 action. The Islanders would waste little time on their power play opportunity as Josh Bailey would streak through the Tampa zone and bury his second goal of the game as he got a pass from Thomas Hickey leaving Ben Bishop with no chance on his one time shot in front of the net, giving the Islanders the 3-2 lead early in the 3rd period. The Brooklyn crowd was in a frenzy after the Bailey goal but the excitement would be short-lived as Lightning forward Vladislav Namestnikov would get a brilliant pass from line mate Valtteri Filppula behind the New York net, and blast a shot past Thomas Greiss to tie the game once again at 3-3 and silencing the crowd. The Lightning would get a chance to a take a lead as New York’s Brock Nelson would be called for a hooking penalty midway through the 3rd period. However, the Lightning power play would struggle to produce any real scoring chances as the Islanders penalty kill would keep the game tied and successfully kill the penalty. The fourth line for the New York Islanders would continue to dominate the Lightning and get a fortunate bounce off a skate after pressuring the Bolts in their zone for an extended shift. The lucky puck bounce would go right to Islanders winger Cal Clutterbuck who would smash a slap shot past Ben Bishop to take the 4-3 lead midway through the 3rd period. The Lightning would attempt to push the pace but would give up several odd man scoring chances to the Islanders which were only stopped by great stops by Ben Bishop. Tampa winger Jonathan Drouin would return to the ice midway through the 3rd period after being injured on a huge hit in the 2nd period. His return would loom large as the Lightning would pull their goalie for the extra attacker late in the 3rd period hoping to get an equalizer. After the Islanders would ice the puck in an attempt to score the empty net goal, the young Tampa forward would take a face-off win bring the puck down near the New York face-off circle and feathered a sharp pass to Nikita Kucherov who would smoke a shot past Thomas Greiss to tie the game at 4-4 with a little over 30 seconds left in the 3rd period. The Lightning and Islanders would finish the period tied for the third time on the night sending the game to overtime. The Islanders would hold a slight shots on goal advantage 39-38 after three periods of play.
The overtime would begin with some frenetic play as both teams were unsure what to expect in the extra period of play. Thomas Greiss would make an early save to keep the game tied. Brian Boyle decided he had seen enough of his teammates getting hit and laid out Islander defenseman Thomas Hickey and stole the puck. Looking like a man possessed from the early pre-game shenanigans, Boyle would continue on towards the Islanders net with the puck and finish the game himself as put home a rebound into the net over a laid out Thomas Greiss giving the Lightning a 5-4 victory in overtime. The Lightning would end up out shooting the Islanders 41-39 for the night. The Lightning now lead the Islanders 2-1 in the series.
The Lightning will face the New York Islanders for game 4 of the series on Friday May 6th at 7:00pm.
THREE STARS OF THE GAME
- Jonathan Drouin– The youngster who as provided a spark to a depleted Lightning offense took what looks like the biggest legal hit of the playoffs when Thomas Hickey completely laid him out early in the 2nd At the time Drouin left the ice under his own power but clearly hurt and shaken. Most Bolts fans were worried about his avaialbilty for the remainder of the series let alone the game. However, Drouin had other plans as he would return to the ice in the 3rd period. Drouin would take a high stick to his face late in the 3rd drawing blood but no penalty, yet he kept fighting. The game on the line and the seconds ticking away he found himself with the puck in the Islanders zone and once again skated into dangerous territory knowing he’d likely get hit but would deliver a perfect pass to Nikita Kucherov who would bury the equalizer and send the game to OT. Jonathan Drouin has grown into a legimitate NHL starter right in front of the Lightning and their fans eyes, and tonight was the ultimate example of that growth. His team needed him and despite everything going against him he found a way to deliver.
- Brian Boyle – He was the guy the Islanders chose to engage with pre-game antics, and he stoodstotic in the face of every attempt to get him to take bad penalties throughout the game. Brian saw his teammates get clobbered but bided his time to unload all of his revenge when it mattered most. His huge hit on Hickey that spurred the rush that he finished would have been big enough, but the fact he was the one to bury the overtime winner which was the epitome of getting the last laugh.
- Ben Bishop– Ben did not have his normal stellar low goals against night but most of the four goals against him were completely out of his control. In fact if it was not for some early and late heroics the Islanders could have easily have had 6 or 7 goals on the night. Sometimes a goaltender doesn’t need to top every shot to effect the game, he just needs to stop the right shots. Tonight Ben Bishop stopped the right amount of shots.
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