The Islanders have put on a Jekyll and Hyde performance against the Lightning in this series, but they stayed alive in Game 6. Who will take Game 7 Friday?
What’s Happening: The combined effort of two New York Islanders stars and one unsung hero allowed the underdog Isles to erase a 2-0 deficit Wednesday to win Game 6 in overtime. Here’s what happened and how we got here.
How We Got Here: The New York Islanders have been quietly one of the most consistent teams in the NHL all season long, including the playoffs. However, they really found the worst time to put in their absolute worst performance of the season in Game 5 against the Lightning when they lost 8-0. While it can be easy to say a loss is a loss and just move on, a loss like that is something that was very uncharacteristic for a defensively-strong minded team like the Islanders.
They were hampered by defensive breakdowns that led to pucks in the back of the net. Speaking of the net, neither of Islanders’ goalies of Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov performed well either. Sorokin allowed five goals on 26 shot attempts and Varlamov allowed the other three on only 16 shot attempts. Costly mistakes and poor goaltending combined with a lackluster offensive game in Game 5, when frustrated star forward Mathew Barzal ended up with a match penalty thanks to a cross-check to the face of Lightning player Jan Rutta.
Barzal Dominates: In order to win Game 6, Barzal needed to establish his presence early and often. It took him a period to heat up, but once he did, the small Islanders forward was unstoppable, assisting on Jordan Eberle’s backhand snipe, which sent the Islanders to the third period down by just one goal.
On the backend, the Islanders defense corps did a better job at what’s made them successful all year long: sacrificing their bodies and getting bodies and sticks in front of pucks. They were able to limit the quality scoring chances, and for the most part, kept the Lightning to the perimeter. And there’s this: shutdown defenseman Scott Mayfield became the Islanders unsung hero when he placed a perfect shot over Andrei Vasilevskiy’s glove to send the Islanders to overtime.
Less than five minutes into overtime, Islanders forward Anthony Beauvillier stole the puck from Blake Coleman before shooting it over Vasilevkiy’s glove, giving the Islanders another shot at hosting its first Stanley Cup Final series at the Nassau Coliseum since 1984. Game 7 will take place in Tampa Bay at 8 p.m.
Who do you think wins Game 7?
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