There were some differences between this Lightning overtime victory and their Game Three OT triumph. Nine goals were scored on Tuesday. Only three were tallied tonight. The teams combined for 80 shots on goal on Tuesday. Only 52 shots were put on net in Game Four. And both teams, especially the Lightning, generated fewer scoring chances in Game Four than they did in Game Three.
So the games weren’t identical. But there were a number of similarities. In both contests, the Islanders scored the game’s first goal in the opening minutes. That early goal provided them with a big momentum boost and they carried play for much of the rest of the opening frame. In Game Three, they fired 17 shots on net. In Game Four, they posted 16 shots on goal. But in both games, the Isles managed just the one first period tally. Because of Ben Bishop’s goaltending, the Islanders weren’t able to build more than a 1-0 lead in either game. Then, after the first period, the Islanders, despite generating additional chances, weren’t able to maintain the same level of relentless pressure for the rest of the game. In both contests, the Lightning rallied from a third period deficit, forced overtime and eventually won. Both overtime sessions ended early, before the Islanders could even register a single shot on goal.
Of course, in neither game were the Lightning at their best. They struggled defensively in both. Though they were better defensively in Game Four than in Game Three, particularly after the first period. On the other hand, they were far more active offensively in Game Three, a contest in which they finished with 41 shots and five goals. Game Four was a more quiet offensive night for the Lightning, but they kept the game at 1-0 until Kucherov tied it at 7:49 of the third.
And that was the key point about Game Four. Had the Islanders been able to add to their lead at any point when it was 1-0, they would have put the Lightning in big hole. That’s because the Lightning, for most of the night, had trouble generating offensive zone pressure, shots or scoring chances.
So how did the Lightning keep the game at 1-0? Bishop played a big role, of course. In addition to his 15 first period stops, he denied two odd-man rush opportunities for the Islanders in the second. He made saves on Kyle Okposo and Calvin de Haan (shorthanded) in the middle frame. Also, the Lightning penalty kill, after allowing the early goal to Okposo, came up with a terrific performance during a four-minute penalty kill late in the first. And from the second period on, while they struggled to apply consistent pressure themselves, the Lightning did a pretty good job limiting the Islanders’ time in the Tampa Bay defensive zone. After posting those 16 first period shots, the Isles had only 12 for the rest of the game. New York had 34 shot attempts in the first and 33 for the rest of the game.
In the third period, Jon Cooper swapped Alex Killorn and Ondrej Palat on the top two lines. The change helped. While the Lightning only posted five shots on goal in the third, they did have more time in the offensive end. It certainly was not a dominating third period performance (unlike how the ice was tilted for the Lightning in the third during Games One and Two). But their forecheck was crisper and they won more puck battles. That was a big part of how they tied the game. After dumping the puck into the offensive end, Killorn pressured Nick Leddy. Tyler Johnson stole the puck behind the net and set up Kucherov, who fired a quick shot past the stick of Thomas Greiss.
Similarly, relentless puck retrieval in the offensive zone led to the overtime winner. Palat and Jonthan Drouin was a series of puck battles to keep possession in the offensive zone. That sustained pressure led to Andrej Sustr setting up Jason Garrison for a right point shot. Greiss was accidentally screened by de Haan and the puck beat him on the stick side.
In their first round series win over Detroit, the Lightning closed out the series in Game Five at home. But they didn’t play well at all in that contest. Instead, Bishop, with a 34-save shutout, stole that game. The Lightning will enter this Game Five knowing that, if they hope to end the series on Sunday afternoon, they’ll need to play better than they did in Game Five against Detroit. And better than they did in both of their overtime wins in Brooklyn.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Garrison’s OT winner.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Ben Bishop – Lightning. 27 saves.
2.Jason Garrison – Lightning. OT winner.
3.Ondrej Palat – Lightning. Assist.