Bolts rebound to even series with Isles

by Gary Shelton on June 16, 2021

in general

Kucherov had assists on three Lightning goals./CARMEN MANDATO

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

They are not perfect. Despite their star power, despite their payroll, despite the hardware in their trophy case, there are nights when the Tampa Bay Lighting can be beaten.

Ah, but can they be beaten twice in a row?

In the current Stanley Cup playoffs, that appears to be a question for the rest of the league. How is someone going to knock off the Bolts if they can't do it twice in a row?

Team Bounce-back was at it again Tuesday night. For the 11th time in the last two playoffs, and the fourth time in this one, the Lightning charged back from a defeat to win. They beat the New York Islanders 4-2 at Amalie Arena. The Bolts were faster this time, smarter, tougher. "More desperate," said Lightning defenseman Jan Rutta.

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And now, the series is tied 1-1 and play moves New York.

Once again, forward Nikita Kucherov was the main creator in the victory. He was a point guard, spinning and whirling and, at times, taking over the game. He had a blind pass from behind the net to Brayden Point for a 1-0 lead, and he had a stop and turn, then turn again, pass to Ondrej Palat for a 2-0 lead. Both were highlight plays.

Kucherov had three assists on the night.

On the Point goal, Kucherov said: “I think it was just a feel of each other. Trying to read each other before the puck gets behind the net. I’m thinking what’s he going to think."

The defense had not scored the entire playoffs, but both Rutta and Victor Hedman scored to give the Bolts a 4-1 lead.

"I thought our compete level was better," sad Point, who has 10 goals in the post-season. "We were selling out a lot more. Guys were winning races to pucks. We weren’t forcing as many plays to feed their transition."

Perhaps that is part of it. But this team seems to respond to a sore jaw. There are games in which they lose when they look slower than the completion, perhaps less hungry.

Then comes the next game, and they are more efficient., more stubborn, more creative.

Two early goals were contested. The Islanders' first goal came on a power play after Point was penalized for running into the goaltender, even though he was clearly pushed. The Bolts' second goal came with too many men on the ice.

“The big thing is you have to manage your emotions," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "We saw the (Point) call. It was a tough one for the referees to make."

Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 24 of 26 to post his ninth win this postseason and sixth win in his last eight starts. Vasilevskiy collected his 42nd career playoff victory, most all-time in the NHL among Russian-born goalies and most in the NHL among all goalies since 2015 when Vasilevskiy made his playoff debut.

The teams return to the ice on Thursday night at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island. The game is scheduled for 8 p.m.

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