Defensemen step up as Lightning even series

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One of the few weaknesses the Lightning had in the 2021 playoffs going into Tuesday’s action was that they hadn’t gotten a single goal from their defensemen. By contrast when the Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2020, they got 17 goals form their blueliners, including Victor Hedman who had 10 goals and 22 points in 25 postseason games.

Getting goals from your defensemen isn’t vital in order to win games, but it certainly can help. Any scoring depth is good and takes pressure of your top line and going into this series, scoring depth was one big edge that the Islanders had over the Lightning. That wasn’t the case in Game 2 though.

Victor Hedman scored his first goal and registered an assist last night and defenseman Jan Rutta found the back of the net too. Their offensive efforts were a big factor in Tampa Bay’s 4-2 victory over the Islanders.

It was a much-needed win for the Lightning, who have evened the series. If anything, the Islanders still have the edge because the first two games were played in Tampa Bay, so now the onus is on the Lightning to win at least one contest on the road. Still, the Lightning did what they needed to last night and that puts them in a position to retake control of the series in Game 3 on Thursday.

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TAMPA BAY 4 NY ISLANDERS 2 (Series tied at 1-1)

While the Lightning got help from their defensemen last night, they didn’t win this one alone. Nikita Kucherov played a huge role by contributing three assists. He’s up to five goals and 22 points in 13 playoff games.

Jan Rutta scored the game-winning goal. It was the blueliner’s first goal and point in the 2021 playoffs.

As noted above, Victor Hedman scored a goal and registered an assist for Tampa Bay. He has a goal and 13 points in 13 postseason contests.

Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat accounted for the Lightning’s other two goals. Point has been another huge part of Tampa Bay’s postseason run with 10 goals and 14 points in 13 contests.

Andrei Vasilevskiy saved 24 of 26 Islanders shots. That gives him a 9-4 record, 2.21 GAA and .933 save percentage in 13 playoff starts.

The Islanders’ goaltending situation was a tad complicated. Semyon Varlamov got the start and saved 23 of 27 shots, but Ilya Sorokin was in net for 6:50 minutes at the end of the first period. What happened is that Varlamov and Point collided, which caused Varlamov to be temporarily pulled from the game. Varlamov was cleared though, so he came back out for the second period.

Mathew Barzal found the back of the net for the Islanders. He has five goals and 11 points in 14 playoff contests.

Brock Nelson scored the Islanders’ other goal. That gives him seven goals and 11 points in 14 postseason games.