The Tampa Bay Lightning took a commanding 3-1 series lead on the New York Islanders with a 4-1 win in the Eastern Conference Final on Sunday.
The Islanders have to overcome a significant deficit if they're to punch a ticket to the Stanley Cup Final. The feat has been achieved 25 times before, most recently in the first round of last year's playoffs.
A scoreless first period set the tone for a physical affair.
Brock Nelson got the breakthrough with 11:27 off the clock in the second period, but a rapid-fire double by Blake Coleman and Ondrej Palat put Tampa Bay in the lead. According to the NHL, the 27-second sequence was tied for the third-fastest between three goals.
Brayden Point gave Tampa Bay some more breathing room in the third period before Patrick Maroon's empty-netter with 2:24 remaining eliminated any doubt.
Nikita Kucherov, RW, Lightning: two assists, three shots
Brayden Point, C, Lightning: one goal, one assist, five shots
Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, Lightning: 26 saves, one assist
Brock Nelson, C, Islanders: one goal, two shots
Opportunistic Attack the Difference for Lightning
Coleman and Palat's goals encapsulate why Tampa Bay is one victory away from a conference title.
The Islanders hardly had time to settle back in before Coleman got on the end of a long pass and beat Semyon Varlamov.
Moments later, the Lightning were on the attack again, and Nikita Kucherov slipped a pass back to the on-rushing Palat.
The score belied how the second period actually unfolded on the balance of play.
The Lightning did a better job of maximizing their opportunities. They pounced on any mistakes by the Islanders, displaying to some extent the kind of killer instinct they had when they put eight goals past New York in Game 1.
Tampa Bay can be there for the taking, as evidenced by the five goals it allowed in Game 3. Sunday demonstrated how strong the team is at its best. The Lightning absorbed the Islanders' best shots and fired back with devastating efficiency.
Isles Unable to Break Down Lightning Defense
The Islanders probably didn't want to get drawn into a long series, which is what will be required for them to make an incredible comeback. If fatigue isn't a problem already, then it will be if this thing goes the distance. New York will have played 14 times in 27 days should a Game 7 come to fruition.
Based on Game 4, that won't become a reality.
Time and again the Isles watched a Lightning player get in the way of a shot or critical pass. When the puck did get through, Andrei Vasilevskiy was there to make the save.
New York's work—or lack thereof—on the power play continues to be a major problem as well.
The Lightning are the stronger team, which makes it imperative for the Islanders to capitalize when they have a man advantage. They're failing to do so and unsurprisingly find themselves fighting for their playoff lives.
The Lightning can close things out Tuesday in Game 5. The puck drops at 8 p.m. ET with coverage on NBCSN.