The New York Islanders entered Game 4 trailing their third-round rematch against the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1. To lose last night’s matchup, it would be like adding a death sentence to the Isles season as they would head into game five in Tampa Bay, one loss away from getting bumped out of the playoffs.
The first period was steady. Neither the Islanders nor the Bolts managed to get the puck past either goaltender, but this all changed when entering the second.
It began with a spinning, backhanded feed from Brock Nelson over to Josh Bailey who was rushing from the far boards to the slot. With a quick wrist shot through the legs of Tampa Defensemen Ryan McDonagh, the puck picked the corner over Andrei Vasilevskiy’s glove. With the lead then established, the Islanders looked to build upon it which they successfully accomplished.
Mathew Barzal added another tally to the board around 13:46 of the same period. With Vasilevskiy positioned to one side of the net, a rebound bounced out to Barzal who faced a wide-open net and didn’t hesitate for a quick shot scoring the second goal of the night.
Matt Martin closed out the Islanders’ second-period scoring as the third goal stirred some controversy on the ice. Lightning head coach, Jon Cooper, challenged the goal for offsides. After said review, the call on the ice stood, the goal was good and New York was up 3-0. The Islanders would also go to the power play as a result of the failed challenge, but would not convert.
Coming off a strong second period, it was expected the Islanders would keep the ball rolling in the third and use the momentum they had gained in the previous period to aid them moving forward. However, the Islanders’ lead was quickly chopped down from three goals to one in a matter of minutes.
Brayden Point, who has proved to be dangerous in the playoffs and this series for Tampa, managed to put the Bolts on the scoreboard. Just three minutes later, Tyler Johnson scored another huge goal for Tampa that put the Islanders lead in danger for the remainder of the game.
“I mean they’re a heck of a team, so I mean they’re going to have their push and Point let a nice shot go there through a screen and I mean obviously they’re going to have their push,” said Barzal in an interview on NHL Network.
— Bri Repetto (@RepettoBri) June 20, 2021
It then became increasingly worrisome that the Bolts would be able to tie the game when McDonagh made a nifty move in the closing seconds of the third period and appeared to have beaten Semyon Varlamov. Positioned far out of the net, McDonagh’s spinning backhanded shot beat Varlamov. However, Game 4 hero; Ryan Pulock; made an incredible heads-up save that locked in the Islanders’ victory.
“I think everybody’s breath just kinda got taken away when that puck was coming. I thought it was going in and then this miraculous play by Polly, so not going to be forgetting that one,” said Barzal.
It was a battle from start to finish and the Lightning definitely showed their ability to stay in a game, but it is important to note how New York just needs to find some momentum to run away with a period. In Game 5, the Isles ideally need to repeat their performance of yesterday’s period two and not let the game slip by them as was almost the case at the end.
Follow Bri on Twitter @RepettoBri