This game had a number of storylines – drastic momentum swings, blown leads, numerous scoring chances and dramatic goals. But the overriding storyline was this. All night, the Lightning took hits from the Islanders – both literal and figurative hits – and didn’t get deterred. They kept pushing back, tying the game three times (including a sixth-attacker goal in the final minute of regulation) and eventually winning it in overtime.
Heading into Game Three, the Islanders talked about wanting more shots on net (they were held in the low 20s in each of the first two games) and playing a more physical game. They accomplished both of those goals. They fired 39 shots on net, including 17 in the first period alone. They also aggressively finished their checks throughout the night and, in many ways, tried to turn this game into a street fight. It started with a needless Travis Hamonic bump on Brian Boyle during the pregame warmups and was punctuated by a hard Thomas Hickey hit to the head of Jonathan Drouin during the second period. That hit on Drouin kept him out of the game until the middle of the third period. How fitting, then, that Boyle scored the OT winner (on a sequence that began with a hard Boyle check on Hickey that created an odd-man rush for the Lightning) and that Drouin set up the tying goal for Nikita Kucherov with a perfect pass at 19:21 of the third.
That was the big story of the game – the Lightning’s resiliency and ability to punch back against a physical opponent in a hostile location. But it wasn’t the only story. This game was marked by those aforementioned big momentum swings. The Isles initially grabbed momentum after Josh Bailey’s first goal at 7:55 of the first. For much of the rest of the period, the Isles dominated play. They created numerous chances, but thanks to Ben Bishop’s 16 first period saves, couldn’t extend the lead. Then, with only 12.5 seconds left in the first, Ryan Callahan tied the game when he tipped in an Alex Killorn shot during a Lightning power play.
That goal sparked the Lightning, who controlled much of the action in the second. Victor Hedman netted his second goal in as many games when he blasted a center point shot past the glove of Thomas Greiss. But like Bishop in the first, Greiss made 16 second period saves to keep the Lightning at only two goals. Then, with just over five minutes left in the frame, the Islanders tied it. With all due respect to Bailey, who had two goals, the Islanders’ fourth line of Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin might have been New York’s best line in the game. On that particular shift, that line cycled the puck effectively in the Lightning zone. Eventually, Nick Leddy rifled a shot in the slot past Bishop, tying the game at two.
The Isles had the run of play in the first and the Lightning did in the second. Neither team had a decided advantage in the third. Both teams generated chances, but the Islanders did enjoy more of the puck possession. Twice, New York took a one-goal lead, but couldn’t hold it. After Bailey’s second goal made it 3-2, the Lightning answered 58 seconds later. At the time, Vladdy Namestnikov was filling in for Drouin on a line with Valtteri Filppula and Killorn. Filppula set up Namestnikov in the slot for Vladdy’s first career NHL playoff goal. But just past the halfway point of the period, the Lightning had more problems with the Cizikas line. After Bishop stopped a Clutterbuck shot directly off a Cizikas faceoff win, the Lightning won the ensuing d-zone draw. But an attempted pass from Jason Garrison to Brian Boyle deflected off Cizikas’ skate right to Clutterbuck in the slot. This time, he finished his attempt, roofing a perfect shot over Bishop’s glove.
Down 4-3 with 8:37 left, the Lightning weren’t able to apply consistent pressure until the closing minutes. But starting with a point blank look for Ondrej Palat with 2:42 left, the Lightning regained momentum. Beginning with his stop on Palat, Greiss made five saves in a row. The final three of those were terrific and came after the Lightning had pulled Bishop for a sixth attacker. But with under a minute to go, Drouin walked to the left circle and sent a seam pass to Kucherov in the slot. Kucherov didn’t hesitate and zipped the shot past Greiss’ stick, tying the game with just under 39 seconds left.
The Islanders won three overtime games in their first round series triumph over Florida. But they didn’t even register a shot on goal in this OT. The Lightning almost won it when a Boyle shot from the left circle deflected off Leddy and nearly ricocheted past Greiss. Moments later, Boyle finished a hard check on Hickey at the Islander blue line. Callahan stole the puck and countered to Boyle. He raced past Hickey, who hadn’t gotten up. That created a two-on-one for Boyle and Cedric Paquette. Instead of trying to pass to Paquette, however, Boyle dropped the puck past Callahan to Hedman, who also had jumped in the play. Hedman’s shot went wide of the net, but caromed off the end boards to the other side of the net. Greiss had come out to challenge the Hedman shot, so he was out of position when the puck came to the other post. Standing at the side of the net, Boyle stopped the puck, maneuvered onto his forehand and lifted it into the net before Greiss could get set.
This may not have been a perfect performance for the Lightning. They had some issues with rush coverage and d-zone turnovers. (So, incidentally, did the Islanders). But at key moments in this game, when the Lightning needed to make a play, they made it. That included rallying from three separate one-goal deficits, twice netting a goal in the final minute of a period and getting a road overtime win in a high stakes playoff game.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Boyle’s OT winner.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Victor Hedman – Lightning. Goal and two assists. Six shots. Team-high 30:15 TOI.
2.Josh Bailey – Islanders. Two goals.
3.Brian Boyle – Lightning. OT winner.