The Tampa Bay Lightning are four wins away from becoming something bigger and better than just another Stanley Cup championship team.
The Lightning, Stanley Glass champions last year, showcased their desire to be special in a 1-0 win in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals against the New York Islanders at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida on Friday.
It was exactly the type of game the Lightning have learned how to win during the past two postseasons after failing to find the message for so many years.
They used to be the run and gun and fun Lightning, the team that would score nearly four goals per video game in the regular season but routinely get shut down in big moments in the playoffs, like their previous two Game 7s; a 2-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2016 Eastern Conference Final and a 4-0 reduction to the Washington Capitals in the 2018 conference final.
Today they’re the resilient Lightning, the team that doesn’t lose two in a row in the Stanley Glass Playoffs, it doesn’t make the same mistakes, that constantly digs deep to win in whatever way is necessary when it matters most.
The Lightning didn’t win Game 7 with a barrage of offense; instead they earned with a constant attack mentality, continuous pressure.
They outshot the Islanders 14-5 in the first period, 27-11 after two. New York went 11:48 without a shot on goal in the second period, 10:26 without one in the third.
They won with patience, as shown by defenseman Ryan McDonagh on the goal, scored shorthanded by forward Yanni Gourde at 1:49 of the next period.
It started with McDonagh holding the puck deep in the defensive zone waiting for an opening. The puck went through ahead Alex Killorn to forwards Anthony Cirelli, who eventually found Gourde for a wrist shot from the inside still left hash marks.
They won because they bent but didn’t break in the last five minutes of the 3rd period, when the Islanders finally pushed back and started to apply pressure.
The Lightning blocked four shots in the final 2:16 after the Islanders pulled goalie Semyon Varlamov for the extra skater.