The New York Islanders refused to go down easy.
With an overtime goal from Anthony Beauvillier, they defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 on Wednesday to force a decisive Game 7.
Anthony Cirelli played a role in both goals for Tampa Bay, scoring the second after assisting Brayden Point on the first. Tampa Bay is looking to win its second Stanley Cup title in as many seasons should it advance to the next round.
- Anthony Cirelli, Lightning: 1 goal, 1 assist
- Brayden Point, Lightning: 1 goal, 1 assist
- Anthony Beauvillier: 1 goal
- Mathew Barzal, Islanders: 2 assists
- Scott Mayfield, Islanders: 1 goal
Lightning Overcome Early Injury to Kucherov
Tampa Bay took a huge loss early when star Nikita Kucherov—who had three assists during Monday's 8-0 beating—went to the locker room just past the two-minute mark. After a cross-check, he went for a hit on Mathew Barzal, but he seemed to absorb most of the impact.
Tyler Johnson moved up from the fourth line to take Kucherov's spot on the top line alongside Ondrej Palat and Point. But there's no replacing Kucherov's production—the 28-year-old has 49 assists over the last two postseasons, ranking him third in NHL history for helpers in back-to-back playoffs behind Wayne Gretzky (60 in 1987-88 and 52 in 1984-85).
The remainder of the top line picked up the slack, with Point scoring for his ninth consecutive game at 16:02 of the first, sending the game into the first intermission with a 1-0 Tampa Bay lead.
Ross Colton was on the wrong end of a hard hit from Matt Martin and joined Kucherov in the locker room early in the middle period.
In the second period, the Islanders doubled their lead as Cirelli, who had the assist on Point's opener, found the back of the net at 12:36 of the frame.
Failing to convert on the power play wasn't such a big deal when the Lightning did so earlier in the game, but with a trip to the Stanley Cup Final on the line in a tie game, making something happen on the advantage with under six minutes to play was imperative—and more difficult without Kucherov.
Islanders Have Advantage but Struggle to Capitalize
The Islanders—who haven't led after the first period in any of their 18 postseason games, a Stanley Cup record—couldn't break through in the opening frame but did have a 7-6 advantage on shots after 20 minutes.
Things started to look bleak in the second period once the Lightning went up by two on the Cirelli goal, but Jordan Eberle was the hero less than two minutes later. He halved the deficit with a little help from Barzal and Andy Greene.
New York still held momentum after the second period, with an 18-15 advantage on shots. Finally, with the season on the line and less than 10 minutes to play, Scott Mayfield was the hero.
And while there was a goal that gave them a second chance, the Isles seemingly could have capitlaized earlier.
They ended regulation with a 28-24 lead when it came to shots and were also dominant in other facets of the game, with 34 hits to Tampa Bay's 25 and a 28-20 advantage on faceoffs won.
They also had three power plays compared to two from Tampa Bay, but as has been the norm throughout this series, they weren't able to convert.
In addition to the offense that led them to a blowout win Monday and edged the Islanders on Wednesday, the Lightning also had the defense to stop any charge by New York, blocking 19 shots compared to 13 by the Isles.
Game 7 will be played in Tampa on Friday at 8 p.m. ET.