It looked as if the Lightning would be playing their fifth overtime game of the playoffs.
Nikita Kucherov had other ideas as the Lightning swarmed islanders goalie Robin Lehner in the final seconds before Kucherov put one past Lehner to give the Lightning the hard-earned 2-1 win.
The win gives the Lightning a 2-0 series lead.
This win was the best of the playoffs for the Lightning. Yes, even better than the five-overtime affair against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the opening round.
This game was one of pure heart and determination.
If the Lightning go on to win the Stanley Cup,
this game will be looked back on as a defining game in the playoffs.
How important was this win? Jon Cooper was the most animated I have ever seen him after the game-winning goal. The “black-out” fist-pump said it all.
The Lightning was playing with nine forwards after Alex Killorn was ejected for boarding Brock Nelson.
Braydon Point was also in the dressing room as he was hurt on a hit early in the second period and did not return.
Point, has been one of the best players in the post-season and has put himself in the running for the Conn Smythe Trophy.
This was a game that in years past the Lightning would have lost. But this year’s team has a different mentality and is playing with a huge chip on their shoulder.
The Lightning playing with all the heart, guts, and desire they could muster would not have been in a position to win without the outstanding play of Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Vasilevskiy stood tall the entire game, but no minutes more important than the five-minute power play the lightning killed off.
That was the turning point of the game. The islanders came out swarming and outshot the Lightning 13-4 in the first period.
The Islanders kept the Lightning bottled up for the first two periods. The Lightning had 10 shots on goal the first 40 minutes.
Cooper called this a gutsy win. “It consumes character, resiliency, personality, adversity. It’s really what it was. Just unbelievably proud of the guys.”
Kucherov said it was about playing the right way and being patient. “Just play the right way. We had to be disciplined defensively and wait for our chances.”
Kucherov continues to add to his playoff resume as he now has 35 points in the playoffs and is the all-time franchise leader in playoff points.
The Lightning could be down three forwards when they play game three of the series on Friday Night.
Alex Killorn was given a one-game suspension for his boarding penalty on Brock Nelson and will miss the game.
Steven Stamkos is out.
Braydon Point may miss the game as well. Cooper did not have any update today on the status of Point on Thursday afternoon. Cooper said he would for an update on Braydon Point sometime on Friday.
Matthieu Joseph, Carter Verhaege, and Mitchell Stephens are all candidates to take the spot of Killorn for game three.
Cooper stressed that one thing the Lightning can’t do is feel sorry for themselves. “Losing somebody of Point’s stature, it’s not ideal but we’ve played without before and we’ve played with multiple guys out before. You just have to make sure that, our job is to make sure they’re not thinking, Oh well, poor us. I don’t feel like we have a team like that. I think once you get this far, everybody’s pulling the rope in the same direction. And so, I think if anything, our guys will dig their heels in the sand a little bit harder and push forward. We’ve got guys waiting in the wings that are chomping at the bit to get in, and we’re comfortable with that.”
Game three is 8 PM Friday on the USA Network