In their Game Five series-clinching 1-0 win over the Detroit Red Wings in Round One, the Lightning were vastly outplayed. They needed Ben Bishop to steal the game – and he did, making 34 saves. By contrast, the Lightning’s 4-0 series-clinching Game Five triumph over the New York Islanders in Round Two was a clinic on how to close out an opponent.
It’s true that Bishop needed to make some key saves at different points in the game. But for the most part, the Lightning dictated play. They grabbed an early lead, then extended it to 3-0 in the opening 25 minutes. They spent much of the game putting pucks in good areas of the ice, areas where they could work the puck out of their own zone, up to the red line and into the New York end. They enjoyed numerous shifts in which they kept the Islanders hemmed back in the defensive zone. One of those shifts led to Victor Hedman’s opening goal at 13:49 of the first period, a tally that came after Nikita Kucherov forced the Islanders to chase him all over the offensive zone.
This was likely the best first period the Lightning had in the series (though their Game Two first period, a frame in which they outscored the Islanders, 2-1, was a close second). In this game, not only did they receive the goal from Hedman, a shot from the slot that eluded a screened Thomas Greiss, they also got a Brian Boyle goal with 1:19 left in the first.
Hedman netted his second goal of the game at 4:22 of the second, a power play blast that found its way through the pads of Greiss. That goal gave the Lightning a 3-0 lead. Over the final 35 minutes of the game, there were moments when the Islanders generated some dangerous looks. But Bishop made saves on those chances, at least the ones that were on net. And just as significantly, the Lightning did not allow the Islanders to build momentum during those moments. In this series, the Islanders were at their most dangerous when they rode a wave of momentum. We saw that during the first period in Games One, Three and Four. But in Game Five, their chances were more intermittent and they couldn’t replicate their earlier success in how they attacked the Lightning in waves. Give credit to the Lightning for bearing down after each New York chance in this game. The chance was usually followed by a strong Lightning shift in which the Islanders were forced back in their own zone.
Of course, down by multiple goals in the third period, the Islanders had to press the attack. That left them susceptible to some Lightning counter chances. Kucherov had two breakaways off long outlets and a third “almost” breakaway in which the puck just bounced off his stick. He did convert on the first of those breakaways, though, extending the Lightning lead to 4-0 at 4:40 of the third.
So this was a solid performance for the Lightning in an elimination game. They got a desperate opponent down early and didn’t let them work their way back into the game. Bishop earned his fourth shutout in a game that eliminates an opponent and, with his 21st postseason win, moved into a tie with Nikolai Khabibulin for the franchise lead.
As was the case after their First Round victory over Detroit, the Lightning will get some time off before the next series begins. Hopefully, those extra days off will help the team get back some of their injured players before the Eastern Conference Final starts.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Hedman’s PPG, which gave the Lightning a 3-0 lead.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Victor Hedman – Lightning. Two goals. Plus three.
2.Ben Bishop – Lightning. 28-save shutout win.
3.Brian Boyle – Lightning. Goal.