Lightning earn spot in Cup finals

Diana C. Nearhos Tampa Bay
Times (TNS)

Another potentially clinching game, and once again, the Lightning and Islanders needed overtime. This time, however, the Lightning came out on top, finishing the Eastern Conference final and securing their spot to compete for the Stanley Cup with a 2-1 win.

Anthony Cirelli, who was injured earlier in the game Thursday night in Edmonton, was the overtime hero. He landed a goal 13:18 into overtime to send the Lightning to the Stanley Cup final. The series will start on Saturday.

"We haven't accomplished what we hoped for and that's what we'll do next hopefully," defenseman Ryan McDonagh said on the NBCSN broadcast.

Where Game 5 was an Islanders'-style affair with low shots and few goals, the Lightning played their game Thursday. They poured on 17 shots in the first period (they didn't have that many until the third on Tuesday).

Even with 42 shots in regulation, the Lightning couldn't rack up the goals like they often do. If the theory holds that a goalie needs to be able to steal a game in the playoffs, this was Semyon Varlamov's.

He came up with five-star save after save, including just barely getting his glove on a puck tipped by Yanni Gourde and recovering to stop Ondrej Palat's shot at the post when he originally watched Point take the puck behind the net.

The only two goals of regulation came in the first period. In the recurring theme of "once again," both goals were scored by defensemen and Victor Hedman notched the Lightning's.

Devon Toews scored first, giving the Islanders the lead at 4:15, on a play Andrei Vasilevskiy might want back. As Toews almost lost the puck on his way past the right post; Vasilevskiy lunged, reaching for it, but missed. Toews continued the wraparound before Vasilevskiy could get his skate to the far post.

Hedman responded 2:14 later, sinking low into the slot and beating Varlamov for his ninth goal of the playoffs.