The Tampa Bay Lightning were a team on a mission as the Eastern Conference Finals began Monday night. Going up against an Islanders team that took two of three from the Lightning in the regular season, an Islanders team that was one of the most dominant defensive teams in the NHL playoffs, proved to be absolutely no problem at all.
The Lightning scored three goals in the first, two in the second, and three more in the third en route to a 8-2 victory to take a 1-0 series lead. The leader of the night was undoubtedly Brayden Point but he wasn’t the only one turning heads in a record setting night. Nikita Kucherov joined Point with five points apiece but Kuch’s third period goal broke Marty St Louis’ record for most postseason goals in franchise history. On top of that, Kevin Shattenkirk set the team record for most assists by a defenseman in a playoff game with three.
The Lightning scored eight goals for the second time in franchise playoff history – another team record – and asserted their will on the Isles at every turn.
Now, this is not indicative of how I believe this series will ultimately go. However, the Isles are at a crossroads where this will now go one of two ways. The more likely option – and the one I believe will happen – is the Islanders regroup and bounce back in game two, making the game and possibly the series far more competitive.
The other way – and not something I would every expect from a team coached by Barry Trotz – is that the Isles are shell-shocked from the way they were outplayed and outmatched upand down the ice and they have no counter punch, allowing the Lightning to take a commanding 2-0 series lead Wednesday night.
Regardless of what New York does, the Lightning need to come out in game two with the same level of drive and intesity they showed in game one. They dictated the pace of play which was a major adjustment for an Islanders team that just finished playing a Flyers team that isn’t nearly as fast or as skilled as Tampa Bay.
There’s a tough decision ahead for Trotz as far as which goalie will get the nod in game two as neither Greiss nor Varlamov were impressive in game one.