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Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz: Golden Knights host Canadiens in Game 1

Varlamov, Islanders take 1-0 lead in Semifinals against Lightning

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily in-depth look at the 2021 NHL postseason. There is one playoff game scheduled for Monday and there was one Sunday.

 

On Tap

There is one game on the Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule for Monday:

Montreal Canadiens at Vegas Golden Knights (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS): It's Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals. Each team advanced to the best-of-7 semifinals by eliminating the No. 1 seed in its division in the first two rounds. The Golden Knights were the No. 2 seed in the Honda West Division and advanced by defeating the No. 3 seed Minnesota Wild in seven games in the first round and No. 1 Colorado Avalanche in six games in the second round. The Canadiens were the No. 4 seed from the Scotia North Division and advanced by defeating the No. 1 seed Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games in the first round and No. 3 seed Winnipeg Jets in four games in the second round. Goaltending will be a big focus in this series. Marc-Andre Fleury of Vegas, who is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy voted as the top goalie in the NHL, is 8-4 with a 1.91 goals-against average, .923 save percentage and one shutout in 12 playoff games. Carey Price of Montreal leads all goalies with a .935 save percentage, and is 8-3 with a 1.97 GAA and one shutout in 11 playoff games. The Canadiens have won seven straight games since trailing the Maple Leafs 3-1 in the first round.

What We Learned

Here are some takeaways from Day 29 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

Lightning need better 5-on-5 play

The Tampa Bay Lightning were carried by their power play in the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, when they were 15 for 36 and led the NHL (41.7 percent). They found out the hard way Sunday that they'll need to bring their 5-on-5 play up to the level of their power play to defeat the New York Islanders in the Stanley Cup Semifinals. They lost 2-1 in Game 1 at home largely because they mismanaged the puck and were outplayed by the Islanders at 5-on-5. Tampa Bay scored a 6-on-4 power-play goal at 19:06 of the third period to make it 2-1, but that was their second power play of the game. The Islanders are the third-least penalized team in the playoffs (6:55 penatly minutes per game) so the Lightning can't expect much more than two power plays per game. Even with how good their power play is, two a game may not be enough to make the difference in a win. It wasn't in Game 1. Their 5-on-5 play must improve, which means their puck decisions must be better in Game 2 on Tuesday. -- Dan Rosen, senior writer

Varlamov is a pretty good goalie too

Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov stood toe-to-toe with Lightning counterpart Andrei Vasilevskiy in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals and proved he's up to the challenge, making 30 saves and winning his fourth straight game in the playoffs. Brayden Point's 6-on-4 power-play goal was the lone shot to elude him, and Varlamov came within 54 seconds of his first shutout this postseason. Vasilevskiy, a Vezina Trophy finalist for the fourth straight season, made 29 saves and gave up the winning goal on defenseman Ryan Pulock's unscreened slap shot 5:36 into the third period. The Islanders thought Varlamov also could've been a Vezina finalist after he was 19-11-4 with 2.04 goals-against average, .929 save percentage and seven shutouts in 36 games (35 starts) during the regular season. But Varlamov was passed over in favor of Vasilevskiy, Marc-Andre Fleury of the Vegas Golden Knights and Philipp Grubauer of the Colorado Avalanche. Varlamov happily will settle for three more wins in this series and a trip to the Stanley Cup Final. -- Tom Gulitti, staff writer

About Last Night

There was one playoff game Sunday:

New York Islanders 2, Tampa Bay Lightning 1: Semyon Varlamov made 30 saves and the New York Islanders held on for a 2-1 victory in Game 1 of the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Semifinals. The Islanders got goals from Mathew Barzal at 12:32 of the second period and Ryan Pulock at 5:36 of the third and used discipline to their advantage in the series opener. They allowed the Lightning two power plays, an important factor in the win considering Tampa Bay has the best postseason power play in the NHL (42.1 percent). Tampa Bay capitalized on a high-sticking call against New York's Brock Nelson and scored a 6-on-4 goal by Brayden Point at 19:06 of the third period, but that was too little, too late in Game 1.

Stanley Cup Semifinals news

Here is the complete schedule for the Stanley Cup Semifinals.

Columnist Nicholas J. Cotsonika breaks down the semifinal series between the Vegas Golden Knights and Montreal Canadiens.

Golden Knights forward Max Pacioretty is downplaying facing his former team in the playoffs, reports staff writer Tim Campbell.

Staff writer Mike Zeisberger reports that Canadiens goalie Carey Price is "locked in" heading into their semifinal series against the Golden Knights.

The Islanders stuck to their game plan when they defeated the Lightning 2-1 in Game 1 of their best-of-7 series Sunday. Staff writer Tom Gulitti with the story.

"Our minds weren't there." Senior writer Dan Rosen on the Lightning's Game 1 loss to the Islanders.

Here are staff predictions for the Stanley Cup Semifinals.

The Fantasy Hockey staff provides fantasy pool rankings for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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