Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily in-depth look at the 2021 NHL postseason. There is one playoff game scheduled for Friday and there was one Thursday.
There is one game on the Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule for Friday:
Vegas Golden Knights at Montreal Canadiens (8 p.m. ET; USA, CBC, SN, TVAS): The Golden Knights and Canadiens are even in the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Semifinals heading into Game 3 at Bell Centre. The Canadiens won 3-2 in Game 2 and have won eight of their past nine games. The Golden Knights have won five of their past six. Montreal forward Tyler Toffoli has scored 10 points (five goals, five assists) during an eight-game point streak, which is one shy of tying Larry Robinson (1978) and Guy Lafleur (1977) for the longest in Canadiens playoff history. Canadiens rookie forward Cole Caufield has a four-game point streak (one goal, three assists). Montreal goalie Carey Price is 9-4 with a 2.14 goals-against average, .930 save percentage and one shutout in 13 playoff games. Vegas defenseman Alex Pietrangelo scored two goals in Game 2 and seven points (three goals, four assists) in his past six games. Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is 9-5 with a 1.92 GAA, .923 save percentage and one shutout in 14 games. Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme was not at the morning skate Friday due to irregularities with his COVID-19 test and may not be available to coach Game 3.
What we learned
Here are some takeaways from Day 33 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:
Lightning getting it done with defense
For so long the Tampa Bay Lightning were known as a run-and-gun, up-tempo, fly-the-zone and stretch-the-ice team. They can play that way still, but they’re winning in the Stanley Cup Playoffs again because they know how to lock it down and rely on defense and goaltending. They provided more evidence of their maturity in tight games in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Thursday. The Lightning took a 2-1 lead into the third period and didn’t give the Islanders much the rest of the way. They almost completely shut them down in the final five-plus minutes; the Islanders last shot on goal came with 5:49 remaining. They managed four shot attempts the rest of the way, one after goalie Semyon Varlamov was pulled. The Lightning improved to 6-1 on the road and 10-1 when they take a lead into the third period. They have scored as few as two goals in seven of their 14 playoff games; they’re 4-3 when they do, including 4-1 on the road. It’s not a coincidence. — Dan Rosen, senior writer
The Islanders need to adjust
The New York Islanders didn’t have trouble generating shots in their 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals on Thursday. New York had 62 shot attempts, but less than half (28) reached goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Lightning helped Vasilevskiy by blocking 21 shots and the Islanders missed the net with 13. It’s difficult enough to score against Vasilevskiy, a finalist for the Vezina Trophy voted as the top goalie in the NHL, but the Islanders have to get more shots past the Lightning defense and to the front of the net to create more scoring chances. Options include shooting more before the Lightning can get into position defensively and having the defensemen intentionally shooting wide off the end boards to get the puck to a forward down low. Defenseman Ryan Pulock did that to create a chance for Leo Komarov with 5:49 remaining, but the Islanders didn’t do enough of that. Regardless, the Islanders need to find a way to get to the inside with the puck more. — Tom Gulitti, staff writer
About last night
There was one playoff game Thursday:
Tampa Bay Lightning 2, New York Islanders 1: Brayden Point scored the go-ahead goal with 18 seconds left in the second period to give the Lightning a 2-1 series lead. Point scored in his sixth straight game, giving him an NHL-leading 11 goals in the playoffs and eight in his past nine games. Yanni Gourde gave Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead 6:40 into the first period and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 27 saves. Vasilevskiy has held the opposition to one goal or fewer in each of his past four road games — only Johan Hedberg (Pittsburgh Penguins, 2001, five games) and Martin Brodeur (New Jersey Devils, 2000, five games) have had longer runs. Tampa Bay is 9-1 when scoring first this postseason, tied with Montreal (9-1) for the most wins. Cal Clutterbuck scored for the Islanders, who have lost Game 3 at home in each of the first three rounds of the playoffs. Semyon Varlamov made 23 saves; he’s allowed two goals or fewer in three of his past four games. The Lightning are 6-1 on the road in the playoffs, and 5-0 all-time in road playoff games against the Islanders in New York (3-0 at Nassau Coliseum; 2-0 at Barclays Center). Lightning defensemen Erik Cernak and Jan Rutta each sustained “some stingers” in the third period but are expected to be able to play Game 4 scheduled Saturday, according to coach Jon Cooper.