Moments before the puck dropped in Game 1 of their second-round series against the New York Islanders, Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning was announced as one of the three finalists for the 2015-16 Vezina Trophy, given to the NHL’s top goaltender.
Exactly 28 minutes and 59 minutes of game time later, he was pulled.
The Islanders built a 4-1 lead against Bishop, who was pulled after John Tavares' long-distance goal on the power play in the second period. Andre Vasilevskiy stopped all eight shots he faced, but the Lightning couldn’t complete a third-period rally and the Islanders took Game 1, 5-3.
While Bishop faltered, Thomas Greiss gave the Islanders another stellar effort, stopping 33 of 36 shots, some of them very high percentage.
“It was a great effort from everyone,” he said on NBCSN after the win. “The first game is always huge.”
The Lightning hit the board first on an Ondrej Palat goal at 3:05 of the first period. But Travis Hamonic responded at 5:44, with Tavares getting an assist.
Then it was the Shane Prince show.
Prince, the late-season acquisition quickly becoming a postseason unsung hero, scored at 17:28 and at 19:57 from linemates Ryan Strome and Brock Nelson, as the Islanders left the Lightning and their home fans stunned with a 3-1 first-period lead.
After Tavares chased Bishop, it appeared the Islanders had this one in hand. But Nikita Kucherov scored his sixth of the playoffs at 7:41 of the third period, and Valtteri Filppula followed with a goal just under 10 minutes later.
The Lightning pulled Vasilevskiy and generated some chances, but Greiss was up to the task. And when he needed help, his teammates provided it. Cal Clutterbuck made a huge block in the defensive zone, and then turned around and scored into an empty net to clinch it.
The line of Clutterbuck, Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin reclaimed their swagger after being overwhelmed by the Florida Panthers in the first round. Cizikas delivered a crushing check on Erik Condra in the first period that left the Lightning forward concussed. The line as a whole pressured the Lightning defense and had a strong game.
But as usual, it was Tavares that led the way with a goal and an assist, currently leading the playoffs in goals and points.
Game 2 of the series is Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m.
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