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5 Keys: Islanders at Lightning, Game 2

Tampa Bay's Kucherov vs. New York's Tavares may determine tipping point

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

TAMPA -- The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning play Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Second Round series Saturday at Amalie Arena (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports). The Islanders lead the best-of-7 series 1-0.

Here are five keys for Game 2:


 The Lightning have won Game 2 in five straight series, including three wins after Game 1 losses. Coach Jon Cooper studies video before each series. But especially against teams he doesn't face often, seeing matchups live in Game 1 gives him a better feel for what works and what doesn't, leading to adjustments in Game 2.

Losing Game 1, especially the way the Lightning played in their 5-3 loss in Game 1, when they felt they were unfocused and didn't compete hard enough, adds urgency.

"The big adjustment's the panic factor about having to win Game 2," Cooper said. "So Game 2's probably got your attention a heck of a lot more now that you didn't get Game 1, especially at home."

Video: Islanders take Game 1 vs. Bolts behind Prince, Greiss


omentum swings are normal within games. But Game 1 featured particularly incomplete efforts on both sides. The Lightning were sloppy in the first and second periods, falling behind 4-1. The Islanders sat back too much in the third, allowing their lead to slip to 4-3. If not for goaltender Thomas Greiss, it might have been worse.

"They had a really good third period," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "Is it something that we didn't do? Maybe. But give them credit for how they made the push. There are certain areas of our game going back and watching that third that we have to be better at too."


Greiss needs to continue excelling in his first time as a starter in the Stanley Cup Playoffs because Ben Bishop of the Lightning is a Vezina Trophy finalist with a history of bouncing back. Bishop was pulled in Game 1 after allowing four goals on 13 shots. He was pulled twice in the playoffs last year: After allowing three goals on 14 shots in Game 4 against the Montreal Canadiens in the second round, he allowed two goals on 29 shots in Game 5. After allowing five goals on 26 shots in Game 6 against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final, he had a 26-save shutout in Game 7.

"This is definitely not a situation [Bishop] is afraid of," Cooper said. "I went over to him in the third period and asked him if he was good, and he was game-on. He could have gone right back in. And so that's what you've got to love about him. Was he ticked off that he was pulled and how everything went? Sure he was. But he wasn't … he's mad at the situation but wants to jump back in and rectify the situation."

Video: Isles' Kulemin, Bolts' Garrison mic'd up in Game 1


The line of Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn and Nikita Kucherov has been outstanding. But Cooper has gone back to the "Triplets" line of Johnson, Kucherov and Ondrej Palat at times, including the third period of Game 1 when the Lightning were dominant, and he had them together in practice Friday.

"Am I locked into the 'Triplets' or locked into not playing them together? No," Cooper said. "There's a bunch of different guys that have had success together and you're just trying to find the chemistry of what works. They've proven in the past that they can work together and hopefully it can continue."


For all the hype about a Russian winger and Canadian center in another series, Kucherov and Islanders captain John Tavares are the ones who share the NHL lead in playoff goals with six.

Kucherov was strong last year too, tying for third in playoff goals with 10 as the Lightning made the Stanley Cup Final. Tavares has been good enough to be a Hart Trophy finalist in the past, but this is his first chance to shine past the first round of the playoffs.

"He's hard to get a puck off, even if he's in a vulnerable spot," Lightning center Brian Boyle said. "You give him a little space, his shot's pretty deadly. He does all those things, and then he has that compete level too. He has a little bit of will in his game."

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