The Islanders would play all night and all morning if that’s what they wanted, but they weren’t going to leave. They weren’t going to pull the skateboard out of embarrassment from the Edmonton bubble. Not after tonight. Not after this game.
So yes, there will be a Game 6 in Edmonton Thursday and the Islanders will still be a loss away from extinction in the conference finals. That hasn’t changed. But here’s what has changed: The Islanders will be two wins away from the Stanley Cup final.
Thursday became necessary when the The Islanders recorded a 2-1 victory on Jordan Eberle’s goal on Anders Lee’s two-to-one feed at 12:30 of the second overtime to restrict the Tampa Bay series lead to 3-2.
It was a victory achieved with a full commitment to play at full 200 × 85 from the first moment to the last, one in which the Islanders contain the Lightning as well, and one that ended with the line of points to the struggle of the Islanders. coming up with his first goal five to five in the series.
“It’s the biggest I’ve had in a long time,” said Eberle, who scored a power goal in the first game of the series, but hadn’t been able to finish five to five despite numerous chances around the net. “We’re struggling hard to get where we are and we’re not finished.”
They could be. It could have been over when Anthony Beauvillier was hit with a four-minute double for Mikhail Sergachev in fury at 18:37 of the third. But the islanders were not done. They were just starting out, killing the penalty shooters while limiting the Lightning to two shots in five attempts, the heavyweight made by penalty-killers Josh Bailey, Brock Nelson, JG Pageau, Cal Clutterbuck, Adam Pelech, Scott Mayfield, Andy Greene and Johnny Boychuk .
The match was played in tight quarters. Through the first 80 minutes, teams came together to block more shots (53, 28 from the Islanders) than they were able to get pucks into the net (49, 29 from Tampa Bay). But then the game started to open. The pace somehow accelerated. Chances developed.
Semyon Varlamov was at the top of his game in the Islanders ’net and so, was Andrei Vasilevskiy on the other side as well. In fact, it was Vasilevskiy who went with the rescue of the night when he managed to get his glove to deny Mat Barzal, only at 5:50 in the first extra time.
Barzal has not scored and has not even scored in this series. But No. 13 had its best night and is irrepressible until 31:28 of ice time, strong on the discus, attentive to the discus, recording two shots in 10 attempts, seven of them blocked. And even though Lee didn’t score, he made the winning two-in-one, dragging him to the left side after Kevin Shattenkirk had essentially ventilated to the right spot.
There was more to Lee’s game than that step, the captain resolving his battles and his work in the defensive zone. Lightning struck Brayden Point, injuring an injury in the lower body, and neither Ondrej Palat nor the ubiquitous Nikita Kucherov (five shots on 14 attempts in a 36:19 game) scored.
So for tonight: Islanders Top Guns 1, Lightning Big Boys 0.
Look, Tampa Bay still leads this series. Tampa Bay still needs a win to advance to the final while the Islanders need two. Point will be able to play in Game 6. Lightning is 3-0 in this series when Point gets dressed.
But the Islanders grew up because of this experience. They are 2-0 in potential elimination games, having survived Game 7 against the Flyers in the last round and Game 5. They won this by going with 11 strikers and seven defenders, the first time they had played. that alignment since the start in the regular season. Do you remember the regular season? Do you remember that the training camp for 2019-20 started more than a year ago?
And there’s a little dirty secret about the Lightning, who have apparently been on the cusp of a championship since they beat the Rangers in sevens in the 2015 Eastern Finals before losing the final to the Blackhawks.
That’s right, twice since Tampa Bay was in a win of another trip in the final. But in 3-2 over the Penguins in 2016, the Lightning lost Games 6 and 7. And in 2018, in more than 3-2 in the conference finals, the Lightning were locked behind in Games 6 and 7 from Trotz’s Caps. .
Now this. Five games over five years to the final. Five chances. Five losses.
And the Islanders are still here.