Take Five: Five takeaways from Game 2 of the 2020 Eastern Conference Final

The New York Islanders scored the game’s first goal and dominated 40 minutes of play on Wednesday night– then they forgot that hockey is a three period, 60-minute, game because the Tampa Bay Lightning took a 2-0 series lead thanks to Nikita Kucherov’s game-winning goal with nine seconds left in the game.

Tampa won, 2-1, despite finishing the night trailing in shots on goal, 28-21.

This time it wasn’t all New York’s fault– well, except for some missed opportunities on the skater advantage, including a five-minute power play after Alex Killorn received a major and a game misconduct for boarding Islanders forward, Brock Nelson, early in the first period.

Game 3 is Friday night at 8 p.m. ET on USA Network in the United States and on CBC, SN, as well as TVAS across Canada.

1. Can anyone stop Victor Hedman from scoring?

Does Victor Hedman even play defense anymore (spoiler alert: he does)? But seriously though, Hedman has seven goals this postseason, which is a lot for a player coming from the point.

The Lightning defender has the second-most goals scored on his team– trailing Brayden Point’s eight tallies this postseason.

The next closest Bolts defender(s)? Kevin Shattenkirk and Ryan McDonagh with one goal.

Both Hedman and Shattenkirk have played in 15 games this postseason, while McDonagh’s been limited to 12 games due to injury.

Anyway, the moral of the story is that Hedman has the second-most goals on the Lightning this postseason (and is a defender). That is all.

Oh, P.S., he extended his goal streak to four games and trails only Paul Coffey for the longest such run in a postseason among defenders. Coffey had a five-game goal streak in the 1983 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Now go warm the kettle.

2. Did the Islanders get to play their game?

If Game 1 was all Tampa, then Game 2 was all New York.

The Islanders limited the Lightning to 21 shots, but still found a way to lose like how they dropped three games one way or another in their seven-game Second Round series against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Don’t actually look those stats up to find out if I’m right or not, since the real point I’m trying to make here is that the Isles play a “boring” game that suppresses offense– sometimes to the point that they’ve prevented their own opportunities and let a close game slip away.

With some adjustments from Islanders head coach, Barry Trotz, and a full 60-minute effort from his players, New York looks poised to continue to pressure the Bolts to the utmost of their ability as long as they meet or exceed their compete level from Game 2.

The fact that the Lightning didn’t blow the Islanders away in two games in-a-row means that New York willed the game their way more, which can only be to their benefit.

Well, most of the time.

3. Can Nikita Kucherov be stopped?

Kucherov is doing his usual thing– scoring all the time, despite trailing Point in team scoring by a point.

Point has 8-15–23 totals in 15 games this postseason, while Kucherov had the game-winning goal at 19:51 of the third period to net his 22nd point in this year’s playoffs.

He has six goals and– a team leading– 16 assists in 15 games, which should be enough to remind even the most casual fans that Steven Stamkos is not the entirety of the Lightning roster.

It’s no surprise that Kucherov, Point and Hedman’s presence in their usual roles have led Tampa– along with their goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy– to greatness despite missing their captain in Stamkos due to abdominal muscle surgery since mid-March.

Maybe hockey is a collective action sport, you know, like a team sport.

Maybe you need a team. We’re a team.

Lightning players not named “Stamkos” are quoting Ottawa Senators General Manager, Pierre Dorion, on one thing that makes them great this [post]season.

4. Not bad, keep Semyon Varlamov in net.

Losing a game doesn’t sound great, but allowing two goals on roughly the usual amount of shots against by the end of two periods in a game isn’t the worst thing in the world and wasn’t indicative of Semyon Varlamov’s ability to bounce back after hitting a rough patch at the tail-end of the Second Round and the “Game 1 That Must Not Be Named” in Islanders lore.

Despite making 19 saves on 21 shots against on Wednesday, Varlamov’s goals against average dropped to a 2.21, while his save percentage remained stagnant at a .913.

He still has two shutouts going for him in his back pocket, which, once again, Vasilevskiy has yet to do strangely.

Is this one of those “only in 2020” things?

5. Isles in a “must win” scenario.

Going back to No. 2, let’s face it, the Islanders are in a “must win” scenario, otherwise they’ll practically be eliminated in Game 3.

One thing that has remained true throughout their franchise history is that whenever Tampa takes a 3-0 or 3-1 series lead, the Lightning will close things out in Game 4 or 5.

Even if New York splits the next two games it wouldn’t do them any good.

No team has comeback to beat the Lightning if Tampa has a 3-1 series lead and the Bolts have had a 3-1 series lead, what like, seven or eight times in their history– including approximately all of them against the Boston Bruins in the Second Round in two out of the last three postseasons.

The playoffs are all about momentum and, despite losing in Game 2, the Isles took some of the thunder out of the Lightning, but now they need to figure out how to make it rain in Games 3 and 4.