Varlamov sensational in Islanders' 2-1 win

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NEW YORK ISLANDERS 2 TAMPA BAY 1 (Islanders lead the best-of-seven series 1-0)

The first game of the Stanley Cup Semifinals was another upset as the New York Islanders went into the Amalie Arena and knocked off the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1.

It was a far cry from Game 1 of the semis last season when these same two teams met as the Lightning slaughtered the Islanders to the tune of 8-2. While the rest of the series was fairly even with Tampa Bay winning in six games, the Lightning took advantage of a tired New York team who flew into the Edmonton bubble after winning a Game 7 in the second round against the Flyers 4-0, as they played on only one day’s rest.

The game was a real goaltender’s duel as both Semyon Varlamov and Andrei Vasilevskiy put on quite a show with Varlamov just a little bit better than his counterpart in the Lightning cage.

The Islanders played exactly how I thought they would and it would not surprise me if the series not only went seven games, but Game 7 was a one-goal game that even went into overtime. Do not underestimate the Islanders as they know how to play playoff hockey and shut things down.

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The first period was scoreless as the Islanders outshot Tampa Bay 14-11. Both Varlamov and Vasilevskiy were perfect.

The second period saw one goal as Mathew Barzal took a pass from Josh Bailey, broke in alone and beat Vasilevskiy between his legs to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead. The shots on goal were even at nine apiece.

Ryan Pulock made it 2-0 in the third period as his shot from the point eluded Vasilevskiy. Jordan Eberle drew the lone assist.

The Lightning threw everything at Varlamov in an attempt to get back in the contest and with the Tampa Bay net empty and the Lightning on a power play, courtesy of a Brock Nelson high-stick on Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point managed to cut the lead in half with just 53.7 seconds left in the contest as his shot beat Varlamov high short-side. Alex Killorn and Kucherov drew the helpers.

But Tampa Bay could get no closer although they swarmed the net in the last 15 seconds, but the Islanders held the fort and took a 1-0 series lead.

Varlamov won his fourth game in a row after Ilya Sorokin did the same in the opening round against Pittsburgh. They became the third duo in NHL playoff history to accomplish the feat of having both goalies win four games in a row in the same playoff year. The first two were Gerry Cheevers and Ed Johnston in the Bruins' 1972 Stanley Cup win, while Pete Peeters and Phil Myre did it in 1980 when the Flyers lost in the Stanley Cup Final to the Islanders.

Varlamov stopped 30 pucks and is 5-3 with a 2.43 GAA and a .930 save percentage in the post-season.

The great Vasilevskiy saw his record fall to 8-4 with a 2.23 GAA and a .934 save percentage as he stopped 29-of-31 shots.

Pulock and Barzal were each plus-two while Ondrej Palat, Kucherov, Jan Rutta and Victor Hedman were all minus-two.

Palat was the only Lightning player to not have a shot on goal.

Anthony Beauvillier had five shots on goal with Alex Killorn picking up four.

Barclay Goodrow and Matt Martin each had six hits with David Savard and Cal Clutterbuck each picking up five hits.

Scott Mayfield had four blocked shots.

The Lightning outhit New York 41-40 while the Islanders had 13 blocked shots to the Bolts eight.

Goodrow had a pair of minors.

Kyle Palmieri saw his five-game point streak come to an end.

Game 2 is Tuesday, back at the Amalie Arena with an 8:00 PM ET start time on NBCSN.

NIGHTLY LEADERS

Goals

Mathew Barzal – 1

Ryan Pulock – 1

Brayden Point - 1

Assists

Josh Bailey – 1

Jordan Eberle – 1

Alex Killorn – 1

Nikita Kucherov - 1

Shots on Goal

Anthony Beauvillier – 5

Alex Killorn – 4

Hits

Barclay Goodrow – 6

Matt Martin – 6

Cal Clutterbuck - 5

David Savard - 5

Penalty Minutes

Barclay Goodrow - 4