Last year in Game 1 of the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals, the Islanders got off to a rough start and lost to the Lightning 8-2. This time, they flipped the script by improving defensively and scoring the same amount goals, proving to be enough to win this time.
The Islanders entered the Stanley Cup semifinals and made it back-to-back appearances for the first time since they did it from 1979 to 1984. They had a score to settle with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the reigning Stanley Cup Champions, after they suffered a 4-2 series lost against the Lightning in Edmonton.
In the first meeting between both teams since Game 6 of the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals, Matt Martin and Barclay Goodrow got into a fist fight 8 seconds into the game, leading to an immediate 4-on-4. Neither team scored a goal in the first period. After the Islanders spent most of the Stanley Cup Playoffs being outshot in matches, they outshot the Lightning 14-11 to start the game.
Nearly halfway through the second period and the game, Matt Barzal continued his hot streak over the last few games by getting a wrist shot past Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevsky on a breakaway before the net was dislodged, giving Barzal his 4th goal of the postseason on the 7th postseason assist of Josh Bailey.
37 seconds before the second period ended, Kyle Palmieri was called for interference on Erik Cernak. Despite having the power play carry into the third period, the Lightning were unable to create a power-play goal. Eventually, the Islanders would get another goal on a long slap shot by Ryan Pulock, getting his 4th goal of the postseason after receiving the puck from Jordan Eberle, who got his 6th assist of the postseason.
With a few minutes left to go, the Lightning pulled Vasilevky from the net and went 6-on-5 to try and mount a comeback. They nearly came back after getting a power-play goal from Brayden Point when Brock Nelson was called for a minor high-sticking on Nikita Kucherov, ending Semyon Varlamov’s shutout bid. Despite getting their first goal of the game with 54 seconds left, the Lightning could not capture another goal to tie the game, thus falling to the Islanders to begin the semifinal round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The three stars of the game were awarded to Matt Barzal, who scored the first goal of the game by either side, Semyon Varlamov, who nearly got his first shutout in the postseason while making 30 saves on 31 shots he faced, and Brayden Point, who scored the only Lightning goal of the game. Both sides made 31 shots each while combining for 81 hits, Lightning with one more than the Islanders.
For the Islanders, they made it tough on the Lightning to score goals when playing defense once the Lightning started to execute plays in the Islanders’ zone by out-blocking Tampa Bay 13-8.
The Islanders win Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals for the first time since 1983 as they look for their first Finals appearance and Stanley Cup title since 1984. Game 2 between New York and Tampa Bay will commence Tuesday night at the Amalie Arena at 8pm on NBCSN as the Isles look to take a 2-0 series lead, followed by hosting Game 3 and 4 at the Coliseum.