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