It’s been a little while since the New York Islanders second line took control of a game.
That changed in Game 3 when the Islanders beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-3 on Friday night.
The Islanders took a two-goal lead in the second period with goals by Adam Pelech and Anthony Beauvillier. Brock Nelson displayed incredible patience in a 2-on-2 situation and fed Beauvillier for his first goal in the series.
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Leading 3-1 going into the third period, the Islanders were unable to hold the lead, as the Lightning’s Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson tied the game, and the Isles looked to be in danger of going down 3-0 in the series.
The Islanders struggles continued in Game 3, often failing to clear the puck, and transition from the neutral zone into the Lightning’s end of the ice, similarly to how they dropped Game 2. Instead, the Isles are back in the Eastern Conference Finals thanks to some late-game heroics by the second line that has carried a majority of the team’s offense in the bubble.
Nelson broke the tie with 3:25 remaining in the game, giving the Islanders a 4-3 lead and a path to victory. A turnover by the Lightning in the neutral zone resulted in a beautiful tic-tac-toe play by Josh Bailey, Beauvillier, and Nelson.
Lightning goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy had allowed 12 goals high blocker prior to entering Game 3 on Friday Night. Nelson took advantage of the reigning Vezina Trophy winner’s weak spot and roofed one over his blocker. That goal etched Nelson in the record books at 7th all-time in career game-winning playoff goals.
“Brock’s a little bit under the radar to a lot of people,” Trotz said. “He’s grown so much over the years. He’s battling through that last game. Wasn’t easy. I wasn’t surprised, knowing Brock. He just got determined.”
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Nelson isn’t the only one who saw himself rise in the Islanders record books. Beauvillier’s tally in the second period was his ninth of the post-season in 19 games so far in 2020 moving him into 2nd on a list of productive Stanley Cup Playoff left-wingers playing with the Islanders behind only Clarke Gillies.
Bailey joined the fun as well. His two assists tonight pads his team-leading 19 points (2 goals, 17 assists) in the postseason. The two late third period assists now has him tied for fifth for most assists in a single postseason in Islanders history.
The Lightning were without their leading scorer, Brayden Point, and Alex Killorn served his one-game suspension during Game 3. With Killorn back for Game 4, and Point possibly back as well, it is not going to get any easier for the Islanders from here.
“If we’re going to have any success in this series, I know that we’re going to need contributions from all the lines. Really, the first number of goals that we scored in this series, it basically came from the [third or fourth lines]. We haven’t been able to get the other two lines on the scoreboard. Tonight we did and we were able to get a victory” said Trotz.
“I don’t know if it’s a rivalry, but they don’t like us. We don’t like them” said Lightning defenseman, Mikhail Sergachev in a post-game conference.
Casey Cizikas didn’t dress for Game 3, and his status is unknown going into Game 4. Regardless, the line of Beauvillier-Nelson-Bailey was a step in the right direction for a team that was seemingly on the brink of dropping three straight games to the Lightning.
Now down only by one game, the Islanders have proven they can bounce back as a resilient bunch, and the second line trio has been at the helm.
“This group is special with the resiliency,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “This is our fourth series, not our third (the Islanders defeated the Florida Panthers in four games in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers). We’ve had to battle through double overtime losses, a lot of different things. … That’s all we talk about. Focus on the moment. What can you do now? It doesn’t matter what you did in the past. That’s old news.”
By the conclusion of Game 3, there was no shortage of physicality and chippy play. Game 4 is set on Sunday to be another physical and emotional matchup.