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The Tampa Bay Lightning Takes Care The New York Islanders In Game 7

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Photo Credit:NHL.com
Tampa Bay, FL—The Islanders entered the NHL playoffs as the fourth and final playoff seed in the East Division. Now, Tampa Bay are standing in their way from reaching their first Stanley Cup Final since 1984. But to do so, they’ll have to play their best hockey against last year’s champions.

 

The Lightning are the first defending champions to reach the Stanley Cup Final since the Penguins won back-to-back titles in 2016 and 2017.

The Islanders were one win away from reaching hockey’s biggest stage for the first time since 1984, but playing away in front of a raunchy crowd, were too much to overcome.

Tampa Bay beat the Islanders, 1-0, in a fast paced Game 7 of their conference final playoff series at Amalie Arena in Tampa, on Friday to advance to the Stanley Cup finals for the second straight year.

The quest for the Stanley Cup is down to the final two (Lightning vs Canadiens) who will square off, beginning Monday in Tampa.

If the Lightning takes this year cup, they would become the third repeat champions in 23 years, joining the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings and the 2016-17 Pittsburgh Penguins.

Montreal finished the regular season with 59 points, the fewest of any of the 16 playoff teams, but in the postseason they have gotten excellent hockey play from gritty veterans and high-flying youngsters like Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki.

The Isles beat the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins in six games to get here. They came back in Game 6 to force Friday’s decisive game. Tampa Bay defeated the Florida Panthers (six games) and Carolina Hurricanes in five games.
It was the first Game 7 in league history to end 1-0 with a short-handed goal.
Photo Credit:NHL.com
Yanni Gourde scored a short-handed goal 1 minute 49 seconds into the second period. He came off the bench on a shift change and was wide open when all of the Isles followed Anthony Cirelli into the corner. Cirelli found Gourde, who took the pass and rocketed the puck past Semyon Varlamov’s glove side, then punched the air in celebration.

 

Tampa Bay also knocked off the Islanders in the third round last year in the Edmonton bubble then beat the Dallas Stars in six games in the final to win their first title since 2004.

They finished third in the Central Division in 2021 as Nikita Kucherov missed the entire regular season recovering from offseason hip surgery. The team’s ability to put him on long-term injured reserve allowed it to exceed the salary cap and keep the championship core together.

Kucherov returned back in the lineup Friday night and played more than 16 minutes, the Lightning was in great shape for the final round with him in the lineup. Brayden Point, who put together a nine-game goal streak Steven Stamkos, Killorn and Victor Hedman are among the NHL’s top postseason scoring leaders.

The Isles had plenty chances to score, especially when Mathew Barzal was glaring down at an open net late in the third period, but he could not control the bouncing puck to score.

“I’ve got a few more years, but you want to win for those guys,” Barzal said. “It hurts seeing those guys in the locker room, knowing how close we were.”

The key to a Stanley Cup repeat will be goalie Vasilevskiy, who was named a finalist for the Vezina Trophy for the fourth consecutive season and is expected to win for the second time.

“Our fans kicked it up a gear,” Tampa Bay’s captain, Steven Stamkos, said, “and it was an amazing atmosphere tonight.”

Vasilevskiy agreed. “That was a textbook Game 7,” he said.

And now Tampa Bay will aim to build at least part of what the Islanders had in the ’80s.

Tampa Bay have ridden the hot goaltending of Andrei Vasilevskiy, who recorded his fourth consecutive series-clinching shutout, dating to the Lightning win over the Dallas Stars in last year’s finals. He made 18 saves in the win over the Islanders. Vasilevskiy’s teammates also blocked 21 shots against a scrappy Isles’ team.

The Montreal Canadiens have the long-term pedigree, but the Lightning want to cement their place in hockey history.

“It’s all well and good to one day put on your gravestone that you won a Stanley Cup,” Jon Cooper, the coach of the Lightning, said. “But to do it two years in a row, multiple times, now your team is special.”