New York IslandersNHLTampa Bay Lightning

The Islanders Flip The Script, Force Game 7 in Tampa

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Only an estimated 42 weeks since Anthony Cirelli’s overtime shot sent the Islanders faithful into yet another heartbreak, the Islanders have received the ultimate satisfaction. The 2021 Game 6 matchup finished with the score of 2-1 in Rogers Place, despite being a home game for the Islanders due to the COVID-19 bubble. The Lightning went on to defeat the Dallas Stars for the Stanley Cup, their first since 2004, and brought the first of multiple championships to Champa Bay in recent memory.

The Islanders, once again down 2-1 at home in Game 6, this time their actual home, came out in the third hot and mounted an exhilarating comeback. It was Anthony Cirelli’s second period goal that put the Lightning up 2-0, a lead they would hope not to relinquish. In short, they relinquished it late. Momentum looked as though it may have been swinging the Isles’ way in the second immediately following Cirelli’s goal when Jordan Eberle broke away and scored on Andrei Vasilevskiy. The first real chance in the third for the Islanders was on an Alex Killorn penalty. The Islanders lost the faceoff, Tampa Bay killed the powerplay and New York fell to 1/14 on series powerplays. Despite their chances, it seemed as though the Islanders couldn’t execute the entire series. The Islanders only recorded one shot on the powerplay. Then, they finally executed. It was a Matthew Barzal set up that led to a Scott Mayfield goal off of the crossbar at full strength to tie the game at two.

The second period had ended hot, as Lightning captain Steven Stamkos fought Scott Mayfield following a cross-check intended to harm to end the period. Mayfield had already taken out former Hart trophy recipient and the postseason’s leading scorer Nikita Kucherov, as he targeted Kucherov’s injured hip within the game’s first five minutes. Kucherov did not return to ice, a worrisome sign for Tampa as they lose perhaps the league’s most dynamic player. Kucherov is the franchise leader, by good margin, in every statistical postseason category. In fact, Kucherov became only the second player to chart the most assists in consecutive postseasons. The other player? Wayne Gretzky.

Kucherov isn’t the only Lightning player to be historic in the playoffs, however. The scoring opened with a goal from his linemate Brayden Point, who has now scored a goal in nine consecutive playoff games. This is one shy of the NHL record set by Reggie Leach of the Philadelphia Flyers in 1976.

It looked as though the Lightning would regain control late, thanks to a Matt Martin high stick on defending back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Pat Maroon. It led to a Lightning powerplay, and this time the Lightning were the team that couldn’t execute despite three shots on goal. That was the only opportunity the Lightning had in the period, as they’d continue to be outclassed on the ice for the duration of the third. Alas, the Bolts survived regulation through the skin of their teeth and forced Game 6 overtime, something familiar in Eastern Conference Finals between the Islanders and Lightning. Only, unlike last year, it was in front of a raucous crowd in Uniondale and the Islanders would not allow their fans to be heartbroken.

Immediately in overtime, a Blake Coleman turnover led to an Anthony Beauvillier goal past Vasilevskiy to send the series back to Tampa and force a Game 7. In what could end up being the final game of the historic Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders quest to end their championship drought at 38 years continues. This Friday they will play the defending champions on the road in win or go home. The Islanders look to do exactly what the Lightning did following last years’ Game 6 Overtime game: win the Stanley Cup. The momentum is in the hands of New York.

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