The third round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs features four teams in two best-of-7 series, with Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final between the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders beginning Monday at Rogers Place in Edmonton, the hub city for the conference finals and Stanley Cup Final.
No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. No. 6 New York Islanders
Lightning: 4-1 to win Eastern Conference Second Round against No. 4 Boston Bruins; 4-1 to win first round against No. 7 Columbus Blue Jackets; 2-1-0 in Qualifiers round-robin; 43-21-6, .657 points percentage in regular season
Islanders: 4-3 to win Eastern Conference Second Round against No. 1 Philadelphia Flyers; 4-1 to win first round against No. 3 Washington Capitals; 3-1 to win Qualifiers against No. 10 Florida Panthers; 35-23-10, .588 points percentage in regular season
Season series: TBL 1-2-0; NYI 2-1-0
The Tampa Bay Lightning are in the Eastern Conference Final for the fourth time in six seasons and seek their second trip to the Stanley Cup Final over that time frame. But they’ll have to get past the New York Islanders, who are in the conference final for the first time since 1993.
It’s the second time in five seasons the Lightning and Islanders will face off in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Tampa Bay defeated New York in five games in the 2016 Eastern Conference Second Round.
Game 1 is Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).
The Lightning will play for the first time in a week. They advanced to the conference final with a 3-2 win in double overtime against the Bruins in Game 5 of their second-round series Aug. 31.
“This will be a real good test,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said Sunday. “The Lightning have been off for a little bit, they’re fresh, they’ve been waiting for our series to end. They went to Edmonton yesterday, they probably practiced. The time change that we’re going to have, all that, that’s what we’re going to deal with today.
“They probably had meetings today on us, if not, maybe they had it yesterday, I don’t know. But they’re a little bit ahead of us because they’ve been watching and scouting. We’ve been trying to do the same thing, but we’ve been trying to focus on the moment. Lately it was the Philadelphia Flyers, and now that moment’s gone, and our focus will be Tampa now.”
New York had to win a Game 7 in the second round after taking a 3-1 series lead against the Flyers. Thomas Greiss, in his second start of the postseason, made 16 saves in a 4-0 victory.
It’s the second time in as many seasons the Islanders reached the second round of the playoffs with Trotz as their coach. They were swept by the Carolina Hurricanes last season.
Lightning: Forward Brayden Point scored eight points (one goal, seven assists) in five games against the Bruins. He’s scored 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) in 13 games this postseason, an average of 1.38 points per game. He’s done it without regular linemate Steven Stamkos, who has been unfit to play since the start of the postseason and will not play in the conference final.
Islanders: Center Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored three goals against the Flyers and has seven in the postseason, one behind forward Anthony Beauvillier for the Islanders lead. He’s scored 19 goals in 51 NHL playoff games.
Lightning: Andrei Vasilevskiy, solid throughout the postseason, was a difference-maker in Game 5 against the Bruins, stopping 45 of 47 shots. He has won each of the four overtime games he’s played this postseason, making 50 combined saves. Vasilevskiy, who won the Vezina Trophy as the top goalie in the NHL last season and is a finalist this season, is 10-3-0 in the playoffs with a 1.91 goals-against average and League-best .931 save percentage.
Islanders: Semyon Varlamov has started all but two games this postseason and is 9-4 with a 2.00 GAA, .921 save percentage and two shutouts in 14 games. Greiss has played in three games (two starts) and has a 1.08 GAA, and .960 save percentage.
Numbers to know
Lightning: Ondrej Palat is tied for the longest playoff goal streak in Lightning history, having scored in each of the final four games against the Bruins. Stamkos (2015, 2018) has done it twice, and Vincent Lecavalier (2007) and Martin St. Louis (2003) have done it once.
Islanders: Outscored the Flyers 11-3 in the third period and have allowed two third-period goals in their 11 wins this postseason.
Lightning: Ryan McDonagh averages 26:41 in ice time per game, the most among Tampa Bay defensemen, playing a stay-at-home role that complements the attacking natures of Victor Hedman and Kevin Shattenkirk. He is plus-58 in shot attempts during 5-on-5 play in the postseason.
Islanders: Forward Josh Bailey has scored two goals, but he’s thrived on a line with Beauvillier and Brock Nelson and has a team-leading 17 points in 16 games. His 15 assists are the most in a playoff year by an Islanders player since Bob Bourne had 20 in a run to the 1983 Stanley Cup.
They said it
“Regardless of the score, I’m proud of this team. They’ve done everything we’ve asked of them this year. Every home reporter and fan wants your team to go 82-0. It hasn’t been done yet and I doubt it’ll ever be done. But they’ve made a conscious effort to put themselves in the position they’re in right now and all the credit goes to [the players].” — Lightning coach Jon Cooper
“Obviously by winning an extra round, it seems like the journey’s a little longer for us, being a sort of in that play-in round, and that was a playoff series. I look at it as we won three playoff rounds and we’re going to play a very good Tampa team here. They’re very focused and deep and we’re going to have to come up with a way to try to get by them. I think our guys are up for the challenge because our team has grown. We understand that there’s a certain way that playoff hockey is, and we’ve been able to win a few series in the last two years.” — Islanders coach Barry Trotz
Will win if …
Lightning: They get depth scoring. The three players who regularly appear on the first line –Palat, Point and Nikita Kucherov — have combined for 15 goals and 43 points. The other 10 forwards who have played this postseason have combined for 17 goals and 40 points.
Islanders: They continue to shut down the opposition during 5-on-5 play and execute within their team concept. Five players (Beauvillier, Pageau, Nelson, Anders Lee and Mathew Barzal) have scored at least five goals this postseason, and 16 have scored at least once.
Lightning projected lineup
Ondrej Palat — Brayden Point — Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn — Anthony Cirelli — Tyler Johnson
Barclay Goodrow — Yanni Gourde — Blake Coleman
Pat Maroon — Mitchell Stephens — Cedric Paquette
Victor Hedman — Zach Bogosian
Ryan McDonagh — Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev — Kevin Shattenkirk
Scratched: Braydon Coburn, Mathieu Joseph, Luke Schenn, Alexander Volkov, Scott Wedgewood, Carter Verhaeghe
Unfit to play: Steven Stamkos, Jan Rutta
Islanders projected lineup
Anders Lee — Mathew Barzal — Jordan Eberle
Anthony Beauvillier — Brock Nelson — Josh Bailey
Derick Brassard — Jean-Gabriel Pageau — Leo Komarov
Matt Martin — Casey Cizikas — Cal Clutterbuck
Adam Pelech — Ryan Pulock
Devon Toews — Scott Mayfield
Nick Leddy — Andy Greene
Scratched: Michael Dal Colle, Ross Johnston, Otto Koivula, Tom Kuhnhackl, Andrew Ladd, Sebastian Aho, Johnny Boychuk, Noah Dobson, Thomas Hickey, Christopher Gibson
Unfit to play: None
NHL.com staff writer Mike Zeisberger and deputy managing editor Brian Compton contributed to this report