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Brian Boyle’s goal 2:48 into overtime gave the Tampa Bay Lightning a 5–4 win over the New York Islanders in a wild, see-saw Game 3 on Tuesday night in Brooklyn.
Josh Bailey scored twice for the Islanders and Thomas Greiss made 36 saves. For the Lightning, Victor Hedman scored a goal, Jonathan Drouin continued his playmaking wizardry despite being laid out by a huge hit from Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey, and Ben Bishop came up with 35 stops.
The win gave Tampa Bay a 2–1 series lead. Game 4 is on Friday night in Brooklyn.
Here are three thoughts on Tuesday’s game:
Four times as good
The best fourth line in hockey during the regular season was the Islanders' trio of Matt Martin-Casey Cizikas-Cal Clutterbuck, which combined for 33 goals and 71 points. Any team would kill for half of that production from its fourth line.
In the first round series against Florida, that impact simply wasn’t seen. They were unable to garner any points and the line was even broken up at times as coach Jack Capuano looked for a spark. The Isles advanced in spite of their fourth line, not because of it.
Game 3 against the Bolts was a different story. The unit provided a ton of energy and contributed four points (goal, three assists). It was their hard work that led to New York's goal by defenseman Nick Leddy that knotted the score at 2–2 at 14:50 of the second period. It was also their work and forecheck down low that forced a Tampa Bay turnover and led to a blistering goal by a wide-open Clutterbuck that gave the Isles a 4–3 lead at 11:23 of the third.
The Islanders are not as talented as the Lightning. They will need the energy and production of that fourth line to keep up with Tampa Bay, which is clearly hitting its stride after its lackluster Game 1 loss, and avoid falling into a 3-1 hole. Another hopeful sign for New York: oft-maligned winger Josh Bailey returned from injury and scored twice, giving the Islanders more secondary offense of the kind they will need if they hope to win this series.
A Hed above
John Tavares is the best player in this series. The second best is Hedman. Perhaps that’s fitting. Tavares was the first player selected in the 2009 NHL draft. Hedman was the second and he has quickly become one of the best defenseman in the league. He’s given Tavares a ton of trouble. The Islanders captain ran circles around Florida's defense in the first round, but is being held in check in this series. On Tuesday night, he failed to record a point for the second straight game and was –2.
Hedman also unloaded an absolute bomb of a shot for the team’s second goal, which gave Tampa Bay a 2–1 lead at 8:10 of the second. Greiss never saw it.
The big blueliner got a lot of media attention after Tampa Bay’s run to the Stanley Cup Final last season, but he still is considered to be a tier below the likes of Drew Doughty, Erik Karlsson, Duncan Keith and Brent Burns. Another deep run by the Lightning should put him in the perennial Norris Trophy contenders conversation.
Since his recall from the AHL, Jonathan Drouin has been a revelation with his skating, stickhandling and deft passing. And he was working his magic when Isles blueliner Thomas Hickey laid a hard but clean open-ice check that sent the 21-year-old to the locker room early in the second period.
Drouin returnd midway through the third and took a stick to the face, but was none the worse for the wear as he walked the puck down the left side and made a perfect pass to Nikita Kucherov, who tied the game with 38.4 seconds left to force overtime and set the stage for Boyle's heroics.
Despite a bumpy season that included a trade request, a demotion and a suspension by the Lightning, Drouin has performed well since being called upon to take Steven Stamkos’s place in the lineup. Stamkos, a free agent this summer, will get plenty of big-money offers, but Tampa Bay will have a capable replacement if he leaves town.