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Playoff Push Persists for Lightning

Photo Courtesy of Tampa Bay Lightning

As the season winds down to the final 10 games for the Tampa Bay Lightning, their playoff push continues. Tonight, they host the New York Islanders whose own postseason dreams seem to be fading. The Isles are four points back from the last Wildcard playoff spot and are spiraling in the wrong direction for this time of year. They are only 3-6-1 in their last 10. At this time of the season, a team with hopes of extending their season needs to play with a bang, not go out in a whimper. Speaking of banging, the Lightning are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games and within four points of the third spot in the division. Two teams with the postseason on their minds. Which team’s playoff push persists and which one will begin packing it in? 

In net for the Lightning is Andrei Vasilevskiy. For the visitors, Seymon Varlarmov is between the pipes. Erik Cernak is not playing tonight, Haydn Fleury replaces him on defense. Tonight is the third and final game of the season series. Each team has won one of the first two games so tonight is the rubber match of the season. Currently on the outside looking into the postseason makes the Islanders a dangerous foe. Can the Lightning stay in their game to come away with the win?

It’s All About the Start

One of the keys to the Lightning lately is striking first in their recent games. Scoring the game’s opening goal seems to buoy the team. It leads to more offense and better defense for them. So, what happens tonight? A little more than two minutes into the game, the Islanders struck first. Kyle Palmieri sent a shot that seemed to hit Matt Dumba on his backside and trickled past Vasilevskiy to make it 1 – 0 Islanders. 

After giving up the game’s first goal, the Lightning seemed intent on answering with one of their own. At the halfway point of the period, the Lightning had an 8 – 1 shot lead. With a little over seven minutes left in the period, the Lightning were awarded a power play chance. The first unit of the power play had some chances but it was the second unit that came through. Darren Raddysh took a feed from Nikita Kucherov and blasted a shot past Varlarmov. Back where we started, with a tie game.

Leave No Doubt

In an attempt to leave no doubt, a mere 35 seconds after their first goal, Anthony Cirelli got a beautiful pass from Nick Perbix and was all alone in front of the Islanders net. Cirelli made no mistake as he lifted the puck past Varlarmov to put the Lightning up by a goal.

Middle Periods Can Show the Playoff Push

No question the Lightning took it to the Islanders in the opening period. After outshooting them 21 to 6 in the first twenty minutes, they need to continue that in the second period. Sure, they have outplayed New York so far but the Isles are still one good shot from tying the game. 

Through the period, the Islanders were playing as if they were on a mission. They had to be thinking as much as they were being outplayed, they were very much in this game. To their credit, the Islanders were the better team in the second period. Fortunately for the home team, the visitors didn’t light the lamp despite their improved play. 

The Islanders outshot the Lightning 15 to 8 but the period ended as it began, Lightning up 2 -1. If the Islanders are going to make this a game, they are down to the last 20 minutes.

Final Stand

A whole 21 seconds into the final regulation period a goal was scored. Rookie defenseman Emil Lilleberg snapped a shot that was about five feet wide of the net. This puck had no chance of going into the net. That is until Steven Stamkos skated in front of Varlarmov and did a backhanded redirected tip in of the puck. Most of the 19,092 in attendance missed it because it happened so fast. The Islanders challenged it thinking it was a high stick by Stamkos. After review the goal stood and the Lightning were up 3 – 1 with 19 plus minutes remaining.

There was no quit in the Isles. Though, knowing the ornery reputation of their coach, it wasn’t a surprise. They just couldn’t solve Vasilevskiy. With 10 minutes left in the game, Vasilevskiy had stopped 27 of the Islanders 28 shots. 

Sealing the Playoff Push Deal 

When there was 3:36 left in the period, Roy pulled Varlarmov. Ironic since his goalie was the best Islander player in the game. It backfired for New York. Less than a minute later, Cirelli scored his second goal of the game into the empty net. That is how the game ended, Lightning won 4 – 1.

Three Stars 

  1. Andrei Vasilevskiy – Stopped 28 of 29 Islander shots for a 96.5% save percentage. 
  2. Anthony Cirelli – 2 goals and 1 assist
  3. Nikita Kucherov – 2 assists

What’s Next 

Monday night at home against the Detroit Red Wings. Puck drops at 7:00 pm


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