By Arnie Leshin
The 2nd-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning are one win away from the National Hockey League playoffs with the prestigious Stanley Cup its quest by defeating the 6th-seeded New York Islanders, 4-1, Sunday afternoonfor a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference best-of-7 finals played at Rogers Place Arena in Edmonton, Alberta.
The teams play again Tuesday, but for the Isles, it doesn’t look promising as they now have to win three-straight. But Tampa Bay can clinch the series and await the Western Conference winner that matches the top-seeded Las Vegas Golden Knights against the 4th-seeded Dallas Stars, whose 2-1 win in game five brought them a 3-1 advantage in the series. Dallas won game one, Las Vegas game two, and the Stars won the next two.
After a scoreless first period, New York broke the ice with the first goal coming in period two tallied by Brook Nelson off an assist from Josh Bailey. But Tampa Bay responded with back-to-back goals from Blake Coleman and Ondrej Palat in the same period via assists from Palat and Brayden Point, who scored the third goal assisted by Yanni Gourde and Nikita Kucherov in the third period.
The other Lightning assist came from Cedric Paquette on a third period goal from Pat Maroon that brought the 4-1 lead. Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasileskia came up with 27 saves and Isles goalie Semyon Varlamov stopped 35.
The Lightning got off 36 shots at goal and the Islanders had 27. Tampa Bay was called for four penalties and spent eight minutes in the penalty box. It was the same for New York. The Islanders had 17 giveaways, the Lightning had 11. New York had four takeaways and Tampa Bay five. Each team came away with 48 hits. In face offs, it was a huge 34-21 Tampa Bay advantage.
The Stanley Cup final will also be played at Rogers Place Arena.