Wednesday night saw the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders meet again for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals. This game saw a much more balanced field of play between the two teams compared to the blowout in Game 1.
Both sides pushed through the first period with very strong offensive play. New York opened the game with an early goal 1:14 into the period. Matt Martin received a pass from Nick Leddy behind the net and flicked the puck up over goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy’s right shoulder. The play leading up to this goal showed us that the Islanders had sat down and seriously evaluated what they did wrong during Game 1. Rather than move down the ice against the boards, giving Tampa Bay space to position, the Islanders’ forward line made use of the center ice to push the puck towards the goal. This let them build a much stronger offensive position in front of and around the crease allowing Martin to surprise Vasilevskiy.
Tampa Bay was unable to return the favor and tie the game up until just under two minutes left in the first period. This goal was quite the impressive maneuver for the Lightning, scoring just a few seconds after the puck dropped for a faceoff. Yanni Gourde was able to hit the puck straight behind him where defenseman Victor Headman was waiting. Headman wasted no time and slotted the puck into the left side of the net with a very low, fast slapshot. This was only Tampa’s fourth shot on goal for the night. This period finished out with the game tied 1-1, and this score carried all the way through a much less eventful second period.
The tie was broken with just 7.8 seconds left in the third period after four shot attempts in the last 20 seconds of play. Yanni Gourde started this scoring attempt with a one-on-one rush to the crease, but the shot was blocked by Semyon Varlamov’s butterfly. Ondrej Palat then took a pass from Gourde in front of the crease and tried a wrist shot, but this too was blocked by Varlamov, this time off of his glove. The game-winning goal was scored just seconds after, when Ryan McDonagh took the rebound off Varlamov’s pads and passed it to Nikita Kucherov. Kucherov wasted no time and dumped this one-timer into the net before Varlamov had time to react and close off the net.
Overall, this game was much more balanced than the previous meeting between these two teams. Tampa Bay is showing no signs of slowing down, but the New York Islanders are not yet out of the race for the Stanley Cup.