3 Keys: Lightning at Islanders, Game 6 of Semifinals


Lightning at Islanders


Tampa Bay leads best-of-7 series, 3-2

The Tampa Bay Lightning will try to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the second straight season when they play the New York Islanders in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals at Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday.

The Lightning, who won the Cup last season, have scored the past 10 goals in the best-of-7 series following their 8-0 win in Game 5 on Monday.

“It was a big win for us obviously, but 8-0, 2-1, 3-1, it’s still one game,” Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman said. “We’re going into a building where we’ve obviously won one and lost one, so these are tough games. They’re a great team and we’re sure we’re going to get their best. We’ve got to raise our game to another level once again and we’re super excited to be in this situation.”

The Islanders could potentially be playing their final game at Nassau Coliseum, their home from 1972-2015 and again for much of the past three seasons. They are moving to UBS Arena in Elmont, New York, next season.

“We’ve just got to bring our best effort,” Islanders forward Matt Martin said. “We’ve earned everything we’ve gotten to this point, and we’ve got to go out there and earn the right to continue to play in front of our home crowd. We need to use the energy and momentum to our favor.”

The Lightning are 7-2 all-time winning a best-of-7 Stanley Cup Playoffs series when they hold a 3-2 lead and have ended the series in Game 6 five times. The Islanders are 3-9 when trailing 3-2.

Here are 3 keys for Game 6:

1. Barzal will play

Mathew Barzal, the Islanders’ most dangerous offensive player is available after the center was not suspended by the NHL Department of Player Safety for his cross-check on Lightning defenseman Jan Rutta at the end of the second period in Game 5. Barzal was fined $5,000 on Tuesday, the maximum allowable under the collective bargaining agreement.

Barzal has scored 12 points (six goals, six assists) in 17 games this postseason.

“Having ‘Barzy’ in the lineup tonight is huge,” New York defenseman Nick Leddy said. “Obviously, he’s one of the best players in the League and he’s a guy on our team that drives us. We all know how talented he is as a player, and I think everyone knows how much we need him as well.”

2. Vasilevskiy standing tall

Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy is having another dominant postseason; he leads the NHL in save percentage (.936) and shutouts (three), is tied for the postseason lead in wins (11) with Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price, and is fourth with a 2.05 goals-against average. Vasilevskiy has allowed two goals or fewer in four of the first five games in this series.

“‘Vasy’ is a huge part of our team; he’s the backbone,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “He’s another proud guy. He doesn’t like to lose. He’s the last line of defense, but it takes a collective group to win. … If you want to have success, you have to play consistently and consistently well. Does it start with our goaltender? There’s no question, but it seeps through the rest of the team.”   

3. First period success

The team that scores first has won each of the first five games in this series, but the Islanders could use the first goal for morale after the 8-0 loss in Game 5. Tampa Bay has scored the past 10 goals in the series since the third period of New York’s 3-2 win in Game 4. 

The Islanders have been outscored 17-8 in the first period (including 5-1 against the Lightning) and outshot 217-151 in the playoffs and have yet to lead entering the second. Tampa Bay led 3-0 after the first period Monday.

“It’s amazing where we are based on some of the starts,” New York coach Barry Trotz said. “I think just playing well at the start and not falling behind — three pucks as quickly as we did last game — will benefit us.”

Lightning projected lineup

Ondrej PalatBrayden PointNikita Kucherov

Alex KillornAnthony CirelliSteven Stamkos

Barclay GoodrowYanni GourdeBlake Coleman

Ross ColtonTyler JohnsonPat Maroon

Victor Hedman — Jan Rutta

Ryan McDonaghErik Cernak

Mikhail SergachevDavid Savard

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: Alex Barre-Boulet, Mathieu Joseph, Boris Katchouk, Taylor Raddysh, Gemel Smith, Mitchell Stephens, Daniel Walcott, Fredrik Claesson, Cal Foote, Luke Schenn, Ben Thomas, Christopher Gibson, Spencer Martin

Injured: None

Islanders projected lineup

Kyle Palmieri — Mathew Barzal — Jordan Eberle

Anthony BeauvillierBrock NelsonJosh Bailey

Leo KomarovJean-Gabriel PageauTravis Zajac

Matt Martin — Casey CizikasCal Clutterbuck

Adam PelechRyan Pulock

Nick Leddy — Scott Mayfield

Andy GreeneNoah Dobson

Semyon Varlamov

Ilya Sorokin

Scratched: Cole Bardreau, Kieffer Bellows, Austin Czarnik, Anatoli Golyshev, Simon Holmstrom, Ross Johnston, Otto Koivula, Dmytro Timashov, Oliver Wahlstrom, Sebastian Aho, Samuel Bolduc, Braydon Coburn, Thomas Hickey, Grant Hutton, Bode Wilde, Ken Appleby, Cory Schneider

Injured: Michael Dal Colle (undisclosed)


Status report

Cernak, who did not play in Game 5 because of an upper-body injury, skated briefly Wednesday. Rutta, who was unavailable for the third period Monday, did not participate in the optional morning skate. … The Islanders are expected to use the same lineup from Game 5.

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