Where it was magnificence in Game 1, tonight it was won in the muck.
The Tampa Bay Lightning captured a 2-0 series lead over the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference Final on Tuesday night, triumphing 2-1 with a last-seconds strike from Nikita Kucherov to close out a game that took on an entirely different feel than the last.
Scoring early on with another goal from Matt Martin, the Islanders had the opportunity to implement their game — or reduce the competition — for the first time in the series, and they did what they could do drag the Lightning into the mud in an effort to counter the clear talent discrepancy between the two teams. But what loomed larger than the extracurricular activity before and after the whistles was that the Lightning quickly lost two forwards — including maybe their best — and had to play out the rest of the game with only nine when Alex Killorn was kicked out of the game for a heavy, late and high hit, and Brayden Point exited with an apparent injury.
Losing Killorn and Point, and having just enough for three forward lines after dressing only 11 in the game, the sting was lost from the Tampa Bay attack, which mustered only 21 shots overall. But one of the shining stars for the Lightning throughout the postseason, their blue line, held firm, and in the end delivered on the two decisive moments with a goal from Victor Hedman and a brilliant assist from Ryan McDonagh on the Kucherov game-winner with less than eight seconds left.
Proving they can win in ugly fashion after doing it in a showtime manner on Monday night, the Lightning are only further cemented as overwhelming favourites to advance to the Stanley Cup Final, and perhaps win it. However the situation surrounding Point is certainly one to watch. Many have pegged him as the favourite to win the Conn Smythe Trophy if the Lightning do indeed move on and win the championship series, and his loss would be significant for a team already missing their star captain, Steven Stamkos.
Carter Verhaeghe and Mitchell Stephens are options for head coach Jon Cooper if the Lightning do indeed need to tap into the reserves up front, or move away from the 11 forward, seven defenseman configuration the team has rolled with to within two wins of a Stanley Cup Final return to account for potential changes.
More NHL coverage from Yahoo Sports