First of all, my apologies for not getting my thoughts on the Lightning‘s 5-3 game three loss up here. Ran into some computer issues and wasn’t able to make it happen. Technology is great when it works, right? Anyway, I’ll have plenty of thoughts on that game in here.
“Must win” is a funny term, isn’t it? See, the Lightning still hold a 2-1 series lead on the Islanders yet this feels like a game the Bolts absolutely can not afford to lose. If this series becomes a best-of-three, it’s one of those situations where a bad bounce, a bad break can send you packing with another “wait til next year” attitude. The Lightning simply can not allow that to happen.
After a dominant game one and an incredible buzzer beater in game two, the Lightning got popped in the mouth in game three. Without Brayden Point (injury) and Alex Killorn (suspension), the Bolts were without two of their top six forwards. Add in the absence of Steven Stamkos and you could argue the Lightning were missing half of their top two lines. Yet, they found a way to battle back and erase a two goal deficit in the third period to tie it at 3-3. Unfortunately, a terrible pass by Ryan McDonagh in the defensive zone resulted in what would be a game winning goal for the Isles.
That simply can not happen.
We still don’t have any official word on the availability of Point, but the fact that he practiced Friday provides some optimism. Then again, he practiced before game three and still wasn’t available. This team currently runs through Point and any extended absence could prove detrimental to the Lightning’s ability to get through this series.
Jon Cooper said following game three that the Lightning “gift wrapped” this one for New York. He isn’t entirely wrong. The Isles scored two goals in two minutes following penalties. Granted, one was on a 4-on-4, but the Lightning still dominate play in 5-on-5 situations. It was their own costly turnovers and mistakes that allowed the Isles to take this one. I’m not going to go on a diatribe over the officiating – it is what it is at this point. The Lightning have gotten away with some, the Islanders have gotten away with some. It’s that old “playoff hockey is different” argument we hear year after year.
That said, this game can not be allowed to be put in the hands of the officials. They can’t do their jobs correctly to begin with so you can’t allow them to give the Islanders an edge.
This has to be a statement win for the Lightning – leaving no doubt in the minds of viewers or fans as to which team deserves a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. If they get Brayden Point back, that’s all the better. That way, Nikita Kucherov won’t be saddled with the fact that Islanders players – most notably, Matt Martin – will take runs at him all game in an attempt to neutralize his abilities.
Plain and simple, this is a must win. Everyone on the team has to take their level of play up two, three, four notches to stomp out any threat the Isles may bring. Otherwise, this series will become way more interesting than it should have been in the first place.
Where To Watch
TV: NBC, CBC, TVAS, SN
Radio: 970 WFLA
Time: 3:00 p.m. ET
Location: Rogers Place – Edmonton, Alberta