Islanders Edge: Pulock, Isles contain Tampa's third period surge, tie series
photo credit: Dennis Schneidler, USA TODAY Sports
Barry Trotz and his New York Islanders found themselves in a do-or-die game four situation on Saturday night at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Down 2-1 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2021 Stanley Cup semifinals, not only did the Isles need to wake up and score - they needed to find a way to shut down Tampa’s high octane offense and elite forward group.
Despite being outshot in the first period, the Isles had some good looks and played decent two-way hockey. They were outshot in the first period, but luckily for them, the shot count is not what determines the winner of a playoff hockey game.
The second period was arguably New York’s finest play of the entire season. Josh Bailey opened up scoring with an unbelievable shot through the legs of Tampa’s defenseman and into the top corner of the net, Mathew Barzal capitalized on a rebound in front of the net, and Matt Martin backhanded one past Andrei Vasilevskiy. To a raucous Coliseum, New York headed to their dressing up 3-0 after the first forty minutes of hockey.
Trotz and the Isles knew better than anyone that Tampa would not go down without a fight and that a long period of puck management, shut-down defense, physicality, and blocked shots were needed to finish the job and earn the victory.
Sure enough, Tampa came at the boys in blue and orange as hard as they could. Brayden Point and Tyler Johnson netted goals early, making what was once a three-goal game a one-goal game with over ten minutes of hockey remaining. While gaining a defensive mindset with a lead in the third, the Isles needed to possess their offensive touch still. They did not lose it and cycled the puck beautifully down the stretch. Despite not scoring, the Islanders did a phenomenal job killing the clock in Tampa’s end.
With their net empty, Tampa’s Victor Hedman tripped Cal Clutterbuck with under two minutes to play. The Isles moved the puck well in the final minutes, but Tampa pulled Vasilevskiy to make play five on five when they got possession of the puck again.
With about four seconds remaining, Semyon Varlamov was out of position. Tampa Bay’s Ryan McDonough made a spin move and attempted to slide the puck in the open cage. However, Ryan Pulock had other plans.
Pulock displayed unbelievable instincts and hockey IQ, stopping a sure goal that would’ve counted with just a couple of ticks on the clock. The puck winded up in the corner, and New York tied the series. Their 3-2 victory not only tied the series but sent a message loud and clear to Jon Cooper and the Bolts - and that message is that the pesky Isles won’t go away easily, and Tampa needs to bring their best to defeat the boys in blue and orange.
Game 5 of this now best-of-three series is set for Monday night at 8:00 PM Eastern Time.