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TAMPA BAY 2 NEW YORK ISLANDERS 1 (Tampa Bay lead the best-of-seven series 2-1)
The Tampa Bay Lightning came into Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup semifinals and played an almost perfect game, defeating the New York Islanders 2-1 to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Andrei Vasilevskiy, who was named the NHL’s best goaltender by his peers at the NHLPA earlier in the day, showed why he is the best as he turned aside 27-of-28 shots to up his record to 10-4 with a 2.13 GAA and a sensational .935 save percentage.
The Lightning controlled the play for the first half of the contest, frustrating the Islanders at every turn but New York finally got their game going and played the Lightning even the rest of the way, if not better than that.
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The Lightning came out strong in the first period and were rewarded with a Yanni Gourde goal at the 10:05 mark of the opening stanza as he beat Semyon Varlamov at the side of the net after taking a pass from Blake Coleman. It was Gourde’s third of the playoffs. The Lightning outshot the Islanders 11-7 in the first period.
The Lightning shut the Islanders down at the start of the second period as well but a great shift by the bottom-two lines midway through the period, turned things around. When Mikhail Sergachev was sent off for roughing Kyle Palmieri at the 14:28 mark of the second, the Islanders continued to pound on the Lightning.
While Tampa Bay killed off the penalty, New York finally got on the board just 33 seconds later as Cal Clutterbuck shoved the puck past Vasilevskiy in a wild scramble in front of the Lightning net. Erik Cernak did not make a good play as he had a chance to clear the puck (at least into the corner) but tried to shove the puck back to Vasilevskiy but it eventually went to Clutterbuck who scored his fourth of the post-season.
The Islanders quickly picked up a penalty as Adam Pelech was sent off for interfering with Tampa Bay star Nikita Kucherov, with 2:21 to go in the second. The Islanders almost killed off the penalty, as Pelech returned to the ice but could not get back into the play as Brayden Point scored while falling to the ice after a cross-check by Casey Cizikas. You should never give up a goal in the first or last minute of a period but the Islanders did as Point scored with 17.4 seconds left in the second.
For Point, the marker gave him a six-game goal scoring streak as the talented forward has an NHL-leading 11 goals in the playoffs as well as four assists.
Victor Hedman and Kucherov assisted on the goal. For Hedman, he has a goal and 14 points in 14 games, while Kucherov leads all scorers with five goals and 23 points, eight ahead of Nathan MacKinnon, Point and David Pastrnak. Kucherov has a six-game points streak with two goals and 11 points in the streak.
There was no scoring in the third period as the Islanders outshot the Lightning 8-5 after outshooting them 13-9 in the second.
A big surprise was that Matt Martin led everyone with four shots on goal. That does not happen very often, if at all.
Pelech had six hits, one better than Ryan Pulock, Martin and Sergachev.
Hedman had four blocked shots.
There were only two penalties called in the contest with both coming in the second period.
It was the third straight time in the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs that the Islanders lost Game 3, with all three coming at home.
Game 4 is Saturday back at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum with an 8:00 pm start time.
Cal Clutterbuck – 1
Yanni Gourde – 1
Brayden Point – 1
Matt Martin – 1
Casey Cizikas – 1
Blake Coleman – 1
Nikita Kucherov – 1
Victor Hedman – 1
Erik Cernak – 1
Shots on Goal
Matt Martin – 4
Adam Pelech – 6
Matt Martin – 5
Ryan Pulock – 5
Adam Pelech – 2