No time off between series. No problem for the New York Islanders.
Starting their second round series on two days rest, the Islanders looked to be in full stride against the Tampa Bay Lightning, taking Game One 5-3 on Wednesday night at Amalie Arena.
The Lightning struck first in Game 1, but it was the Islanders who brought the thunder, scoring four unanswered goals on their first 13 shots, chasing Vezina Trophy nominee Ben Bishop in the process.
“It was a quick turnaround, but I think Cappy [Head Coach Jack Capuano] said we play well when we play a lot of hockey,” said Shane Prince, who led the way with two goals. “I guess that’s true because that’s a big win for us.”
The Lightning’s speed offered a stark contrast from the Florida Panthers slower, more methodical game, but the change in pace didn’t faze the Islanders. Ondrej Palat opened the scoring on Tampa Bay’s first shot, but the Islanders answered back with a strike of their own, also on their first shot of the game. Travis Hamonic scooped up Alan Quine’s missed shot as it caromed around the boards and wristed it back on net, beating Bishop at 5:44.
“They’re a group that moves fast and presents a different challenge,” Hamonic said. “Maybe their forwards are a smaller group, but they like to move and they can move pretty quick. We just have to make sure we keep stepping up on guys when we have the opportunity.”
Despite the 1-1 tie, Jack Capuano made an in-period adjustment, putting Brock Nelson on a line with Prince and Ryan Strome. The move paid off, as Prince scored twice in the last 2:32 of the first period, including one with 3.6 seconds to play in the period.
Both goals were assisted by Strome and Nelson, with Strome feeding Prince with a cross-crease feed on the first and again dishing out from behind the goal line to find Prince for the second.
“He brings a lot of energy,” Strome said of Prince. “He gets everyone inspired with his speed and his work ethic. It’s good to play with a guy like that and to put a couple in and help the team out was a good feeling.”
The Islanders opened up a three-goal lead in the second period, as John Tavares scored his playoff-leading sixth goal of the season on the power play, beating Bishop cleanly from the top of the circle at 8:59. Tavares’ power-play goal was only the second power-play marker the Lightning had allowed in the postseason. The mid-range wrister also ended Bishop’s night, as Andrei Vasilevskiy played the back half of the game, stopping all eight shots he faced.
The Lightning didn’t go quietly, reviving themselves with a pair of third period goals, making the finish a little tighter than the Islanders would have liked. Nikita Kucherov scored his sixth goal of the playoffs at 7:41 to make it 4-2, while Valtteri Filppula potted his first in a goalmouth scramble, making it a one-goal game with 2:32 to play. (Between the goals, Capuano took an errant puck off the nose and had to go to the dressing room for some stitches.)
“They were hounding the puck and playing desperate,” Prince said. “I don’t want to say we sat back, but they kind of took it to us. It’s something to learn from. We’ll be ready to go, we’ll get a lead next game and be able to hold it better.”
That was as close as the Lightning came, as Cal Clutterbuck iced the game with an empty-netter at 19:05.
While Bishop had an off night for the Lightning, Thomas Greiss continued his outstanding postseason play, stopping 33-of-36 shots, his fifth 30+ save performance in seven playoff games. He was especially good during the third period, turning aside 15-of-17 shots, keeping the Lightning at bay despite the feeling that the clouds were starting to storm in the Islanders’ zone.
“There’s not much you can say, he’s been unbelievable,” Strome said of Greiss. “You don’t want to rely on him as much as we had to, but he’s been fantastic.”
The Islanders get a quick breather between Games 1 and 2, as they don’t play again until Saturday afternoon. Puck drop is at 3 p.m.
NOTES: Lightning forward Erik Condra left the game early in the first period after absorbing a big hit from Casey Cizikas and crashing into the end boards… Jack Capuano took a puck to the nose in the third period, went off for stitches, but returned in the final minutes.
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