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NHL Bubble Wrap: Varlamov saves Islanders in Game 5 vs. Lightning

NBC Sports logo NBC Sports 9/16/2020 James O'Brien
a group of people riding skis on top of a pole © Getty Images

Game 5: Islanders 2, Lightning 1 [OT] (TBL leads series 3-2)

Late in the first period, Ryan Pulock scored a power-play goal to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead. It would end up being a long time until the Islanders scored their next goal in Game 5, but that wouldn’t end up being much solace for the Lightning.

During the middle frame, Victor Hedman collected his eighth goal of an increasingly impressive postseason run. It seemed like Tampa Bay went up 2-1, but that goal would be negated. It turns out that call (obvious as it was) ended up being pretty big, because both teams were stuck in a gridlock from then on.

Things were very tight during the third period, until a big opportunity opponents up. Not only was Mikhail Sergachev high-sticked; the Lightning defenseman ended up bloodied. With about 90 seconds remaining in regulation of a tied 1-1 game, the Lightning went on what could have been a series-clinching power play.

(After all, the Stars punched their 2020 Stanley Cup Final ticket by taking advantage of an overtime power-play goal.)

Despite that double-minor opportunity, the Lightning couldn’t score a second time against Semyon Varlamov. Game 5 ended up extending into double OT, and then the series moved to a Game 6. That happened after the Islanders took advantage of a whiff by Kevin Shattenkirk, with Anders Lee sending a great one-timer to Jordan Eberle for the overtime game-winner, and series-extender.

With Nikita Kucherov taking some hits, the Lightning continue to weather injuries, while the Islanders stay alive — ugly win or not. The other bigger winners are the Stars, as they rest up while these two duke it out for at least Game 6 (and maybe more).

No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. No. 6 New York Islanders (TB leads 3-2)

Lightning 8, Islanders 2. (recap)

Lightning 2, Islanders 1 (recap) Islanders 5, Lightning 3 (recap) Lightning 4, Islanders 1

(recap)

Islanders 2, Lightning 1 [OT].

Game 6: Thursday, Sept. 17, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream) *Game 7: Saturday, Sept. 19, 7:30 p.m. ET – NBC

*if necessary

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Three Stars

1. Semyon Varlamov, New York Islanders

Yes, the Islanders remain a bend-but-don’t-break team. The pace was tortoise-slow in Game 5, more or less like Barry Trotz likes it.

But Varlamov’s strong play explains why the Islanders didn’t break. Varlamov stopped 36 out of 37 shots on goal in Game 5, negating the Lightning’s advantages in areas like high-danger chances (12-6 at even-strength).

If the margin for error remains this slim, the Islanders might need more nights like these from Varlamov. It worked out in Game 5.

2. Jordan Eberle, Islanders

Was Eberle’s overall performance all that great? Meh, not especially. But sometimes you just have to reward a player for ending a double OT game that sometimes seemed like it would never end.

Through the ups and downs, Eberle remains a key clutch player for the Islanders:

3. Ryan Pulock, Islanders

It’s tempting to put Victor Hedman here, as he scored a big goal and created a lot of other chances for the Lightning. With Brayden Point injured and others banged-up, Hedman remains a go-to guy for the Lightning.

But Pulock had a strong Game 5 of his own, and his team won. Pulock’s power-play goal was an absolute bomb, and he ranked among the few Islanders who broke even — sometimes more, sometimes less, but generally even — from a possession standpoint.

Highlights of Islanders’ Game 5 win vs. Lightning

The Islanders would not go down without a fight, and were not eliminated by the Lightning in Game 5:

THURSDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 6 of New York Islanders – Tampa Bay Lightning: Thursday, Sept. 17, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)

NHL Bubble Wrap: Varlamov saves Islanders in Game 5 vs. Lightning originally appeared on NBCSports.com

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