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Islanders Win Game 1 vs. Lightning, Take Home-Ice Advantage in Stanley Cup Semifinals

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVJune 14, 2021

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes struggled to solve Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy in the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The New York Islanders cracked the equation Sunday, however.

Led by goals from Mathew Barzal and Ryan Pulock, the Islanders stole home-ice advantage from the Lightning, winning 2-1 on the road in Game 1 of their semifinal series.

NHL @NHL

Mat Barzal gets the scoring going in the #StanleyCup Semifinals! <br><br>🇺🇸: https://t.co/LcI8Hsqs1r @NHLonNBCSports<br>🇨🇦: https://t.co/0cXuacT6MQ @Sportsnet pic.twitter.com/uYf9nvxLNi

NHL @NHL

Ryan Pulock (@rpulock) gives the @NYIslanders a 2-0 lead in the third... 👀 #StanleyCup<br><br>🇺🇸: https://t.co/LcI8Hsqs1r @NHLonNBCSports<br>🇨🇦: https://t.co/0cXuacT6MQ @Sportsnet pic.twitter.com/q9Bt9Uuc28

New York netminder Semyon Varlamov stymied Tampa's dangerous attack, stopping 30 of the 31 shots he faced.

Mollie Walker @MollieeWalkerr

#Isles Jordan Eberle: "In our minds, Varly is one of the best goalies in the league."<br><br>"No surprise" Varlamov was able to go save-for-save with Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Brayden Point made things very interesting in the final minute, scoring on the power play with just 53 seconds remaining and the Lightning playing six skaters to four after pulling Vasilevskiy. But the Islanders held from there, taking a crucial Game 1 win.

The teams were even in shots (31) and nearly even in hits (41-40 in favor of the Islanders), though New York had a major advantage in faceoffs won (28-18) and blocked shots (13-8). The Islanders also protected the puck extremely well, with only one giveaway.

Mike Kelly @MikeKellyNHL

The 9 rush chances weren't the most in a playoff game this year. That honor goes to....the New York Islanders who had 13 in a game. I've said it before and I'll say it again, the only thing boring about this team is that other teams can't score on them.

Sunday's result shouldn't be a surprise. The Islanders may have come into this series as the underdogs—as they should against the defending champs—but they were also underdogs against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins and won each series in six games.

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They also thrive in close games. The Islanders went 3-1 in overtime games in the first two rounds, so Tampa's late push didn't rattle them.

NHL Public Relations @PR_NHL

The @NYIslanders won their fifth one-goal game this postseason, tied with Montreal for the most among all teams. The only playoff years where New York had more was 1980 (6) and 1993 (6). #StanleyCup#NHLStats: https://t.co/aHkYfAMCWT pic.twitter.com/Qo17IEOrlv

ESPN Stats &amp; Info @ESPNStatsInfo

@NYIslanders win 2-1. It's their first win in Game 1 of a Stanley Cup Semifinal/Conference Final since 1983 <br><br>(Lost Game 1 in 1984, 1993 &amp; 2020) pic.twitter.com/DsVAId2JYw

One thing is for certain—the Islanders aren't about to get comfortable against a dangerous team like the Lightning.

"We just gotta regroup here and have to even get better," Pulock said after the game on the NBC broadcast. "They're gonna make a push here in Game 2."

And no, the Lightning aren't exactly panicking:

Bryan Burns @BBurnsNHL

#Bolts down in a series for the first time this postseason. Stamkos said the Islanders played really well, but Lightning will make some adjustments and come back hungrier in Game 2. "I don't think this group necessarily gets down or gets frustrated." #NYIvsTBL

This series should be fun. The pesky Islanders who keep defying expectations vs. the defending champions who always seem to rise to the challenge. Game 2 will be Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

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