Islanders draw first blood in series opener against Lightning 2-1

Jun 13, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (13) scores a goal on Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) as defenseman Jan Rutta (44) attempted to defend during the second period in game one of the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Mathew Barzal and Ryan Pulock both scored goals to give the visiting New York Islanders a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday and first blood in their Stanley Cup semifinal series.

Semyon Varlamov stopped 30 shots for the Islanders, who have won four straight games.

Game 2 of the best-of-seven semifinal series will be Tuesday in Tampa.

Brayden Point tallied for the Lightning while Andrei Vasilevskiy made 29 saves for the defending Stanley Cup champions, who trail in a series for the first time this year.

Islanders take Game 1

After a scoreless opening period in which the visitors withstood an early Tampa Bay push before recovering, Barzal’s breakaway tally beyond the midway point opened the scoring. Josh Bailey intercepted Steven Stamkos’ ill-advised cross-ice pass just inside the New York blueline and sent a long pass for Barzal to receive at top speed.

Barzal held off a check and slipped a shot through Vasilevskiy’s legs to net his fourth goal in the last five games at the 12:32 mark of the middle frame.

“In some games we’ve played, I don’t need to get the fifth goal when we’re up 4-1,” Barzal said. “It’s just a matter of trying to be there for the boys when they need me and just doing the right things.”

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Jun 13, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) defense the puck from New York Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield (24) during the third period in game one of the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Pulock’s point-shot blast doubled the New York lead at 5:36 of the third period and held up as the game-winner. New York’s forecheckers did a masterful job to gain the puck in the offensive zone and, after Jordan Eberle pulled the puck from the scrum and sent it to the point, Pulock fired a rocket that cleanly beat Vasilevskiy

Point put the Lightning on the board when he netted a power-play goal with 53.7 seconds remaining in regulation, finishing a wild scramble while his team had pulled the goalie for the extra attacker, but that was as close as the Lightning could get.

Lightning will try to even the series in Game 2

Although he wasn’t called upon to make the highlight-reel saves Vasilevskiy provided, Varlamov was full marks for the victory with a couple of notable saves against Alex Killorn.

As well, his team did a remarkable job keeping Tampa Bay’s big guns in check. Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov both managed only one shot on goal each as the Lightning were nearly shutout in the playoffs for the first time since their Game 7 loss to the Washington Capitals on May 23, 2018.

“Our work ethic was there, our compete was there, our minds weren’t there,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “Some of our decisions were poor. That’s what happens. You get this deep into the playoffs, there are only four teams left, you’ve got to have everything working in unison, and we just weren’t quite there tonight.”

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–Field Level Media