Leslie Monteiro liked what he saw from the underrated New York Islanders.
The Tampa Bay Lightning found out the hard way that they are not playing the Red Wings anymore.
They realized they are playing a team that is better defensively and offensively in the Islanders after last night. They also found out they are playing an opponent that won’t wilt down in adversity.
After being behind early, the Islanders roared back to take the lead and they held on to a 5-3 victory against the Lightning in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Islanders demonstrated once again they have the goods to win in the playoffs. The Lightning’s fast start did not overwhelm them, and when the Lightning made a run late in the third period, they found a way to survive and advance in the end.
This was poise at its finest.
The Lightning were off to a great start when Ondrej Palat fired a shot through Thomas Greiss’ pads three minutes into the game, giving them a 1-0 lead over the Islanders in the first period.
The Lightning’s speed overwhelmed the Islanders to start the game.
Then, Greiss started to get going by making several saves that prevented this game from being a 3-0 Lightning lead.
The Islanders responded by scoring their first three goals in the first period to take a 3-1 lead.
Travis Hamonic scored his sixth postseason goal by shooting it through Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop on a pass by John Tavares, giving the Islanders their first goal of the game.
Shane Prince scored the next two goals for the Islanders. He found an open space to score after he received a puck from Ryan Strome, and he ended the first period with an exclamation mark by scoring on a wrister with 2.1 seconds to go in the period.
It was a response the Islanders needed after the Lightning fired the first shot.
That first period showed growth in how far the Islanders have gone when it comes to playing in playoff hockey. Nothing fazes them. They go back to work when the other team takes a lead. They have learned not to let one bad shift or goal get the best of them.
It’s easy to have faith on the Islanders when they play like that.
Based on their ability to rally from deficits against the Panthers in this series, the Islanders have confidence they could do it again against a superior team in the Lightning.
The Lightning had to be stunned at the turn of events. They did not expect this. They knew the Islanders were good, but did they think their opponent was this good?
Amalie Arena was quiet for the rest of the game. Even when the Lightning made it a game, the fans knew better than to be optimistic.
John Tavares continues to do what he does best. Score postseason goals and be involved in assists. After getting his first assist in the first period, he scored the Islanders’ 4th goal in the second period. He scored his sixth goal and earned his fifth assist of the postseason.
The Lightning made it interesting by scoring two goals in the third period to make it a 4-3 game. Nikita Kucherov and Valtteri Flippula scored the Lightning’s two goals in that period.
Still, no one had the feeling the Islanders were going to blow this lead. Time was their friend, and the team were able to clean it up defensively after coasting in the third period.
It speaks about the Islanders’ maturity that they were able to pick it up and settle down when the Lightning made their run.
The Islanders showed once again they have the goods to be a Stanley Cup contender by being tough enough to handle whatever the Lightning were throwing at them.
This isn’t the same team that would fold up. This has to make the Lightning nervous.
The Lightning’s first round opponent was an easy one. The Red Wings had hard time scoring this year, and their goaltending does not scare anyone along with their defense.
The Bolts got a step up in class last night in the Islanders.
The Islanders gained confidence after grinding it out and surviving against a tenacious Panthers team. That served them well when the Lightning were off to a great start and making a third period run.
It seems the more playoff games have gone on, the Islanders have gotten better. That’s why they have won three playoff games in a row, which hasn’t been done in quite awhile.
The Islanders are not going to make this easier for the Lightning.
The Lightning found out the hard way last night.