Lightning top Islanders in Game 7, return to Stanley Cup Final

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The 2021 Stanley Cup Final is set and the Lightning will have an opportunity to defend their title.

Thanks to their 1-0 win over the Islanders in Game 7, the Lightning will attempt to win back-to-back titles. They will face the Canadiens starting on Monday night in Tampa Bay (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN / Peacock).

It was a clinical defensive effort from the Lightning on Friday night as they limited the Islanders to just 18 shots on goal and completely dominated the game from a territorial perspective, even if it did not show up on the scoreboard. Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped every shot he faced for his third shutout of the playoffs, with all of them coming in series clinching games.

Going back to last year’s playoffs he has now ended four consecutive series with a shutout, making him just the ninth goalie in NHL history to have at least four series-clinching shutouts in a career and the first to do it in four consecutive series. In the series-clinching win before that streak started (the Eastern Conference Final a year ago against the Islanders) he allowed only one goal. Just another example as to why he is the best goalie in hockey and a regular Vezina Trophy finalist.

[NBC 2021 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

While he was keeping the Islanders off the scoreboard, the only player to get on the scoresheet was Yanni Gourde, who scored the game’s only goal midway through the second period with his team shorthanded.

Anytime you can get a shorthanded goal in a Game 7 it is going to be significant. But what made it so shocking is that the Islanders were the only team in the NHL this season that had not allowed a single shorthanded goal throughout the regular season or playoffs (75 games). Talk about a bad time for that mistake to happen.

The play started deep in the Tampa Bay zone when Ryan McDonagh showed a ton of patience to hold on to the puck instead of just sending it down the ice, waiting for an opening to find Anthony Cirelli with a stretch pass. Once Cirelli received the pass he bought time in the offensive zone and found Gourde flying off the bench for the shot. This marks the only time a Game 7 has ended with a 1-0 score with only goal being scored while shorthanded.

From there, the story was all about Vasilevskiy and the Lightning defensive play as they went significant stretches without allowing a shot on goal.

It was not until the closing minutes with the net empty that the Islanders finally started to generate some good looks. They were unable to beat Vasilevskiy to get the game-tying goal.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 schedule, TV info]

Now the Lightning have a chance to repeat as Cup champions and add to the legacy that this core of Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman, and Vasilevskiy has built for itself.

This is just the eighth time since 1990 that a team has made consecutive trips to the Stanley Cup Final. Only three times (Penguins 1991, 1992; Red Wings 1997, 1998; Penguins 2016, 2017) during that stretch has that team repeated as champions. The Lightning now have an opportunity do to that.

This has been a magnificent seven-year run for the Lightning franchise. Going back to the 2014-15 season they have won a league best 66 playoff games (no other team has won more than 42 during that stretch) and a league-best 333 regular season games (only the Capitals and Penguins have won more than 305 games during that stretch). This is their third Cup Final during that stretch, while they have also lost two other Eastern Conference Finals in Game 7s mixed in. They are a constant at this point in the playoffs.

The other big story on Friday was Kucherov being able to play in Game 7 after exiting Game 6 with an injury. He logged 16 minutes of ice-time and recorded two shots on goal in the win.

2021 NHL playoff schedule: Stanley Cup Final

Game 1: Mon. June 28: Canadiens at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN / Peacock)
Game 2: Wed. June 30: Canadiens at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN / Peacock)
Game 3: Fri. July 2: Lightning at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (NBC / Peacock)
Game 4: Mon. July 5: Lightning at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (NBC / Peacock)
*Game 5: Wed. July 7: Canadiens at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (NBC / Peacock)
*Game 6: Fri. July 9: Lightning at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (NBC / Peacock)
*Game 7: Sun. July 11: Canadiens at Lightning, 7 p.m. ET (NBC / Peacock)

*if necessary

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Lightning top Islanders in Game 7, return to Stanley Cup Final originally appeared on NBCSports.com