TAMPA BAY 2 NY ISLANDERS 1 (OT) (Lightning win series 4-2)
The Tampa Bay Lightning punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday night with a 2-1 overtime win over the New York Islanders. The Dallas Stars have been waiting, as the Western Conference champions, since eliminating the Vegas Golden Knights on September 14 in five games. Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final is scheduled for Saturday at 7:30 PM ET.
Anthony Cirelli provided the game-winning goal in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final at 13:18 of the first overtime period. He suffered an injury scare in the second period when he appeared to collide knee-on-knee with Islanders captain Anders Lee, but he was back on the ice for the third period. Cirelli didn’t have a point in five games before becoming the overtime hero.
The Islanders got off to a promising start in Game 6 when Devon Toews opened the scoring on a wraparound goal at the 4:15 mark of the first period. However, the Lightning responded shortly afterward when Victor Hedman tied it just over two minutes later. It was the ninth goal of the postseason for the Tampa Bay blueliner. There have only been two defensemen in NHL history who have scored more in a single playoff year and they were Paul Coffey in 1985 (12) and Brian Leetch in 1994 (11).
Lee, Mathew Barzal, Erik Cernak, Barclay Goodrow, Alex Killorn and Nikita Kucherov picked up one assist each in the contest. Kucherov leads the postseason with 20 helpers and 26 points in 19 games. He has matched Tampa Bay’s franchise record for most points in a playoff year, which Brad Richards established in 2004 over 23 outings.
The Islanders were outshot 48-27 in the match, but had two great chances to steal the game and extend the series. Brock Nelson was stopped on a shorthanded breakaway in overtime after Andy Greene was assessed a double-minor for high-sticking with 23 seconds left in regulation. New York also got a power play in the extra session when the Lightning got called for having too many men on the ice.
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Brayden Point was back in the lineup in Game 6. He had four shots, four blocks and one hit over 25:47 of ice time. His return made Carter Verhaeghe a healthy scratch, as the Lightning stuck with using 11 forwards and seven blueliners.
Adam Pelech missed the game after being deemed unfit to play. He reportedly suffered a broken wrist in Game 5 and coach Barry Trotz said following the match that the Islanders defender will need surgery. Noah Dobson made his NHL playoff debut in Pelech’s place, as New York dressed seven defensemen.
Steven Stamkos joined the Lightning on the ice for the postgame celebration with the Prince of Wales Trophy. He hasn’t played yet in the postseason because of an injury, but it will be interesting to see if he’s available at some point during the Stanley Cup Final.