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Lightning just 'find a way' against Islanders

Tampa Bay wins second straight game in OT, takes 3-1 series lead

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

NEW YORK -- Here the Tampa Bay Lightning were again, trailing in the third period on the road, listening to the fans chant, watching the clock count down. And here they did it again, Nikita Kucherov scoring the tying goal as he did last game, Jason Garrison scoring the winner early in overtime.

No, the Lightning don't have captain Steven Stamkos or defenseman Anton Stralman because of injury. But they have experience and depth and determination and skill and maybe a little luck, and after their 2-1 OT victory Friday in Game 4, so much like their 5-4 OT victory Tuesday in Game 3, they have a 3-1 lead against the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference Second Round.

They have a chance to eliminate the Islanders in Game 5 at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Sunday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports) and advance to the Eastern Conference Final for the second straight season.

"I don't think today was our best game, by far," Lightning forward Ryan Callahan said. "But at the end of the day, we find a way."

Islanders coach Jack Capuano called Game 3 "demoralizing." Well, if you're the Islanders, what do you call this?

Twice, you outplay the Lightning at home. Twice, you have the lead in the third period. Twice, you watch Kucherov tie it. Twice, you feel a penalty should have been called late -- on Brian Boyle for a hit in Game 3, on Garrison for a high stick in Game 4 -- only to see the culprit score the winning goal. Twice, you lose in OT.

Video: TBL@NYI, Gm4: Garrison's overtime-winning slap shot

You feel you could be ahead in the series 3-1. Instead, you're behind in the series 3-1, knowing only about 10 percent of teams in this situation have come back to win in NHL history.

"I can't ask for a better effort for the last six periods from our guys," Capuano said. "I thought we played extremely well … and we just hopefully can get a break one way or the other and score some goals here the next game."

In Game 3, the Islanders outshot the Lightning in the first period 17-9. They took a 1-0 lead but ended up 1-1. In Game 4, they outshot them 16-6. They took a 1-0 lead and held it this time, but they failed to score on a four-minute power play after Callahan took a double minor for roughing. They were so inept, their fans booed them repeatedly.

You had a feeling it would come back to haunt them against an opportunistic, explosive team like the Lightning. Sure enough, it did.

Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop made save after save, stopping Kyle Okposo on a 2-on-1 and Calvin de Haan on a shorthanded rush in the second period. The longer the score stayed 1-0, the more time the Lightning had to exploit one opening to tie it.

Video: TBL@NYI: Bishop stones Okposo on the doorstep

In Game 3, the Lightning drew on the experience they gained last year, when they made it to the Stanley Cup Final. In Game 4, they drew on it again.

"We've gone through this," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "There's no real panic button anymore. You wouldn't know whether it's the first period or the third period on our bench. Everybody's just positive. It's about the job they have ahead of them. Until the last buzzer goes, they keep plugging away."

In Game 3, Kucherov scored with 38.4 seconds left in the third period. In Game 4, he scored with 12:11 left in the third. This time, Tyler Johnson won a battle down low and passed into the left circle in front of defenseman Travis Hamonic. Kucherov whipped a quick one-timer into a sliver of space inside the left post before goaltender Thomas Greiss could seal it.

Kucherov scored 10 goals in 26 Stanley Cup Playoff games last year as the Lightning went to the Final. He has eight goals in nine postseason games this year, two more goals than anyone else in the NHL.

"Obviously, when we got that one, you could tell on our bench we had a good feeling of what could happen," Cooper said. "And it happened."

In Game 3, Boyle scored 2:48 into overtime right after drilling Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey without being called for a penalty. In Game 4, Garrison scored 1:34 into OT after hitting Okposo in the mouth with a high stick late in the third without a penalty. This time, the Lightning kept the puck in the offensive zone, and Garrison blasted a shot from the right point past Greiss on the far side.

"It's definitely a sigh of relief," Garrison said.

Not if you're the Islanders. Not if you're the rest of the League.

The more the Lightning win games like this, the more they believe in these situations, the calmer they get under pressure, the harder they become to beat.

"We have a lot of young guys, and just those experiences really help you out, because you never try to get too high, too low," Tampa Bay forward Alex Killorn said. "Everyone always says that, but ..."

The Lightning mean it.

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