The Tampa Bay Lightning hit the road for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals against the New York Islanders and promptly re-took home-ice advantage with a 2-1 victory at Nassau Coliseum on Thursday night.
After dropping Game 1 of the series at home, the Bolts repaid the favor in New York to grab a 2-1 series lead in the best-of-seven matchup.
Following a tirade by Islanders coach Barry Trotz towards officials who allowed the Bolts to score with too many men on the ice in Tampa's Game 2 victory, the Lightning went 0-of-1 on the power play as Brayden Point and Yanni Gourde led the way in Game 3.
The defending champion Bolts are now just two wins away from returning to the Stanley Cup Final for the second consecutive year.
Brayden Point, C, Tampa Bay Lightning: 1 Goal (Game-Winner), 2 SOG, 19:10 TOI
Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, Tampa Bay Lightning: 27 Saves, 1 Goal Allowed
Semyon Varlamov, G, New York Islanders: 23 Saves, 2 Goals Allowed
Cal Clutterbuck, RW, New York Islanders: 1 Goal, 2 SOG, 4 Hits
Bolts Silence Coliseum
Hosting a massive postseason game seemed like an old habit for Nassau Coliseum and Islanders fans, even if it hadn’t done so since the start of the Clinton administration.
The longtime home of the Islanders—who are moving to the brand new UBS Arena in Elmont, New York, next year—was as boisterous as any building in league history on Thursday night. The first period was filled with chants of “Let’s Go Islanders,” which the crowd followed up by serenading forward Josh Bailey to the tune of “Hey! Baby”:
"Hey, Josh Bailey [ooh, aah], I wanna know, will you score a goal?"
It just wasn’t long before Tampa sent the crowd into a stunned silence.
After fighting off an opening attack by New York, Yanni Gourde broke open the scoring 10 minutes into the first period.
Just as the Islanders pounced on the Bolts at their arena in Game 1, Tampa Bay was able to do the same at the Coliseum, taking the crowd completely out of the game for the bulk of the first two periods and helping nullify home-ice advantage.
That the silence from the crowd was noticeable goes to show just how rowdy and attention-grabbing fans were at the start of the game. It was a massive credit to the Lightning that they could effectively quiet them down.
Even with New York trailing by one for much of the game, it never felt like the Islanders were controlling the pace. The only time after Gourde’s goal that the crowd noise made a return came with two-and-a-half minutes left in the second period when Cal Clutterbuck’s fourth goal of the postseason tied things up at one.
But those vibes didn’t last long. New York was called for an interference penalty with 2:22 remaining in the period, setting up Brayden Point’s go-ahead goal just before the second intermission as the penalty kill expired.
For all the excitement of the Islanders playing another semifinal game at the Coliseum, New York’s play just couldn’t match the hype—especially without a goal from Bailey.
Brayden Point Stays Hot
Brayden Point might not be the first name that comes to mind on Tampa's roster.
Not with Steven Stamkos, Yanni Gourde, Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman and Tyler Johnson on the roster. Yet the 25-year-old from Calgary has been the ultimate key to the Bolts' success lately.
After posting 33 points in the playoffs last year (14 goals, 19 assists), Point is attempting to outdo himself in 2021 with 11 goals and four assists in 14 games.
With his game-winning goal Thursday, Point has now scored in six consecutive playoff games and has tallied at least a point in all but one game this postseason. He has four games this postseason with two points, all while averaging fewer than 20 minutes per night.
It's an astounding pace that goes to show just how difficult Tampa's offense is to slow down.
Even if teams can shut down Stamkos, Gourde and Hedman, there are still a number of skaters who can make up for it. Point tops the list, of course, but don't overlook assists from Blake Coleman (six points this postseason) and Erik Cernak (seven postseason points) on the night.
The Lightning have shown multiple times over the playoffs—not to mention during the Islanders series—that they aren't afraid of any line that takes the ice against them. Oftentimes on Thursday, that resulted in both teams skating their fourth line against each other.
Tampa keeps winning those battles. Now, the champs are just two wins away from returning to the sport's biggest stage.
The Stanley Cup Semifinals continue in New York with Game 4 set for Saturday, June 19, at 8 p.m. ET on USA Network live from Nassau Coliseum.