Anthony Cirelli had not collected any points since the start of this confrontation against the Islanders. And this, even getting some usage time at the center from Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat. However, history will remember that it was he who scored the last goal of this Eastern Conference final.
The 23-year-old forward propelled the Lightning to the final for the first time since 2015, beating Semyon Varlamov 13:18 into overtime. The 2-1 winners last night at Rogers Place in Edmonton, the Floridians will now battle the Dallas Stars in the final round, which kicks off tomorrow at 7:30 p.m.
“Barclay Goodrow made quite a play to get me the puck. We worked all season for this occasion. It's the dream of all young players to play for the Stanley Cup, ”said Cirelli, after the game.
Before he could savor this victory, Jon Cooper and his players were hot. Very hot. Like Game 5, the Islanders received a double minor penalty for sticking too high at the very end of the third period. Again, the Lightning was unable to take advantage of this.
In fact, it was the New Yorkers who had the best scoring opportunity of those four minutes when Brock Nelson came out alone ahead of Andrei Vasilevskiy. The great Russian goalkeeper did not flinch.
It was time for Tampa to end this series. We would not have given much of their skin if a seventh game had been necessary. In the third period, we started to feel tired. Mental errors became more frequent and the pressure on the puck carrier was only done at half speed.
Not quite the Red Army
In the 1970s, the Soviet Red Army team multiplied victories without necessarily bombing the opposing net. Okay, the comparison with the Islanders ends there. The difference between the two teams was that the Red Army led few shots on goal, as they preferred to control the puck for as long as possible and wait for the perfect opportunity.
If the Islanders have tested Vasilevkiy six times or less in seven consecutive periods, it is far from being for the same reasons. It's mainly because they hardly touched the puck in the first two engagements.
In the last two meetings, the Lightning players have completely dominated their rivals. So much so that they have completely burned their energy reserve.
The situation had become all the more frustrating for them as Semyon Varlamov, who had had a few mixed outings since the start of the series, was practically perfect. Just yesterday, he frustrated the Floridians on several occasions. He repelled 46 shots.
The Russian goalkeeper was also able to count on the support of his teammates. In front of him, they blocked 35 shots. On his own, Jean-Gabriel Pageau prevented seven shots from reaching the net.
He and Cal Clutterbuck, Matt Martin did a colossal job of wearing down the Lightning players. This trio distributed 21 hits. Clutterbuck (12) and Pageau (7) were dominant in this column.
That's not counting the work of the Gatineau player in the face-off circle. He won 63% (22 out of 35) of his duels. Acquired from the Senators at the trade deadline, Pageau fits perfectly into the style advocated by Barry Trotz.
He certainly doesn't have to be ashamed of his performance.
1First period1-NYI: Devon Toews (2) (Lee, Barzal) 4:15 2-VG: Victor Hedman (9) (Cernak, Kucherov) 6:28 Punishment: No penalty Second period No goal Punishment: Toews (NYI) 4 : 29, Clutterbuck (NYI) 7:13, Johnson (TB) 15:17 Third period No goal Penalties: Toews (NYI) 13:53, Greene (NYI) (min dou) 19:37. 3-TB extension : Anthony Cirelli (3) (Goodrow, Sergachev) 13:18 Penalties: Bench (VG) (purged by Maroon) 8:49 Shots on goal Tampa Bay 17-10-15-6 48 Islanders NY 6-6-9-6 – 27 Goalkeepers: VG: Andrei Vasilevskiy (L, 14-5), NYI: Semyon Varlamov (P, 11-7). Numerical advantages: VG: 0 in 5, NYI: 0 in 2 Referees: Gord Dwyer, Jean Hébert. Linesmen: Derek Amell, Steve Barton.
Captain Steven Stamkos joins the party
The post-game celebrations saw a particularly touching moment when jersey-clad Steven Stamkos joined Victor Hedman, Alex Killorn and Ryan McDonagh in accepting the Prince of Wales Trophy from Deputy Bill Daly to the commissioner of the NHL.
Although he accompanied his teammates in the bubbles of Toronto and Edmonton, the Lightning captain has not played a single game since February 25.
“Stammer might not be playing, but he's still the leader of this team. His influence on the group during training is great. He's one of the main reasons we've come to this stage, ”said Hedman.
Not superstitious, but …
Unlike the Stars, Monday, the Lightning players dared to touch the Prince of Wales trophy, awarded to the champions of the Eastern Conference.
In fact, they didn't just touch it, they brought it back to the locker room.
In 2015, they just watched it. In the final, the Floridians had lost in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks.
“We are not superstitious. But since it didn't work out last time, we thought maybe it was better to try something different, ”said Hedman, the fifth defenseman in history to score nine goals during the playoffs.