The Tampa Bay Lightning entered game 6 of the Stanley Cup Semifinal following an 8 goal explosion in game 5. The Bolts looked to punched their ticket to a second consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearance. The New York Islanders found themselves fighting for their playoff lives in a must win game, down 3-2 in the series. Most of all, New York was fighting for more time in their storied Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders home since 1972. (Minus the brief stint in Brooklyn from 2015-2017). Beginning in the 2021-22 season, the Isles will move closer to New York City to begin play in brand new UBS Arena in the Belmont Park area.
Kucherov injured in the opening minutes
A little over 2 minutes into the first period, Nikita Kucherov exited the game and headed to the Tampa Bay locker room after an attempted check on Matt Barzal. The cause of his exit was not immediately known. It was later thought that the injury could have been caused by a cross check from Adam Pelech just prior to the encounter with Barzal.
Lightning get to the “Point”
New York came out with more intensity than was shown in game 5, but the Bolts were able to counter sufficiently. It was Tampa Bay generating pressure in the offensive zone in the opening minutes. The Islanders returned fire with an extended shift in the Tampa Bay zone thanks in part to sloppy Lightning turnovers.
This pace continued until Brayden Point opened the scoring at 16:02. After an Islanders turnover behind the net, Anthony Cirelli took control of the loose puck. Cirelli fired a shot that created a rebound in front of Isles’ goalie Semyon Varlamov. Point converted a backhand shot to give Tampa Bay the early 1-0 lead. The goal marked Point’s 14th of the 2021 playoffs, matching his total from last year’s postseason. Point has also scored goals in 9 straight playoff games.
Battle of the penalties breaks out
The game’s first penalty came at 6:24 of the second period. After a post whistle scrum, Cal Clutterbuck was called for roughing on Tyler Johnson. Ondrej Palat replaced Nikita Kucherov on the Tampa Bay power play unit. The power play was short lived as just 1:02 later, Victor Hedman went to the sin bin for a tripping penalty. Yet another penalty at 8:07 put the Bolts down to 3 men as Mikhail Sergachev was whistled for interference.
New York ended up with about a minute of 5 on 3 time. Some crucial saves by Andrei Vasilevskiy along with outstanding defensive play enabled the Lightning to kill both penalties and escape back to 5 on 5 unscathed.
Cirelli extends lead, Isles battle back
The score was increased to 2-0 a few minutes later thanks to Anthony Cirelli. Ondrej Palat fed Cirelli in stride at the Islanders blue line and Cirelli was in alone on Varlamov. He cashed in to put the Lightning up by a pair of goals at a crucial time of the game.
New York answered quickly, breaking a 5 period goalless streak and ending a run of 12 straight Lightning goals. Jordan Eberle converted a backhand past Andrei Vasilevskiy to make the score 2-1 at 14:22. This score remained as the game entered the third period.
After a mostly quiet start to the third, Alex Killorn went to the penalty box for holding at 8:15. On the ensuing power play, the Islanders could only manage 1 shot as the Lightning penalty kill stood tall again.
Momentum swings to New York, Mayfield ties things up
The pressure from New York was relentless in the third. The Lightning spent most of the time on their heels in their own zone. Scott Mayfield converted a wrist shot to tie the game at 2 at the 11:16 mark of the period.
Tampa Bay balanced the ice after the tying goal and began to generate some pressure offensively. They would go back to the power play at 14:03 thanks to a high sticking call on Matt Martin. Once Tampa Bay settled in with the man advantage, they were able to get some good looks on Varlamov. But the chance came up empty. Ultimately, overtime was needed to decide the winner of game 6.
Isles win the battle, war to be determined Friday night
It didn’t take long for the game winning goal in overtime. Anthony Beauvillier took control of a turnover by Blake Coleman and buried the puck past Andrei Vasilevskiy just 1:08 into overtime. The win gave New York new life and forced a game 7, which will take place Friday night at Amalie Arena. This marks the fourth time since 2015 that the Lightning will play a game 7 in a conference or Stanley Cup semifinal series.
Three stars of the game
- Anthony Beauvillier – Game winner in overtime
- Anthony Cirelli – 1 G, 1 A
- Brayden Point – 1 A
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