Isles even series after ‘desperation’ save

by Gary Shelton on June 20, 2021

in general

McDonagh almost tied the game late./CARMEN MANDATO

Sunday, 4 a.m.

There in the dying seconds, there at the doorstep of the goal, there after all the turnovers and all the mistakes, it came down to a memory.

It was a crucial moment, and a clutch play, and a finish that the players will talk about for years.

In the end, the moment belonged to Ryan Pulock of the New York Islanders.

It did not belong to Ryan McDonagh of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Sometimes, the difference between winning and losing is that narrow. The islanders evened their Stanley Cup Semifinal with a 3-2 win. It was a game where the third period showed why the Bolts could win this series. The second period, however, showed why the Islanders might eliminate them.

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It was in the closing seconds of the game when McDonagh took a pass from Nikita Kucherov and made a spinning move to his backhand. Goaltender Semyon Varlamov had come toward McDonaugh and was out of position when McDonagh launched it toward the net.

...And Pulock, a defenseman, came across the goal line to block the shot just short of the goal line.

"I just tried to get something on net," McDonagh said. "It was a great lay by their defenseman in desperation. He comes up with a huge block. I couldn’t see. I knew the goalie was coming out and I tried get something down toward the net."

It a frustrating moment, but then again, it was a frustrating night for the Bolts. They gave up three goals in the second period and had trouble moving the puck up ice.

The Bolts charged back in the third with goals by Brayden Point and Tyler Johnson, but they had trouble getting the puck out of their end. It was Point's 12th goal in the playoffs.

 "We didn’t execute," said Victor Hedman of the second period. "They were the better team.  When you give up three goals in the period, It’s not good enough. We pushed in the third, but we shouldn’t be in that position. We know that."

Said Johnson: "We started losing our battles. We weren’t working as hard as we usually do. You can’t win that way. We didn’t play a complete 60 minutes."

Coach Jon Cooper wasn't pleased with his team.

"These guys have given it their all for a month and change," Cooper said. "Sometimes you lay an egg and we laid one in the second period. It was unfortunate. You can but you can’t break. That second period we broke."

Cooper praised McDonagh's play.

“It was a desperation play by their defenseman," Cooper said. "To be honest, I thought the play McDonagh made was better than the save. Just to get the puck on the net was a phenomenal play. Give their guy credit.  It was a bit of a heart-stopper at the end."

Cooper thinks his team should be able to handle the defense of the Islanders.

"We were tentative," Cooper said. "We have a pretty talented group. We weren’t making plays. We weren’t snapping pucks up to each other. We didn’t push any pace. When you’re not on it and turn pucks over usually bad things are going to happen.

"It's no different than what Carolina did. We've played teams that did this before."

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