The Tampa Bay Lightning advanced to the Eastern Conference Final and will play the New York Islanders or Philadelphia Flyers.
Tampa Bay defeated the Boston Bruins 3-2 in double overtime in Game 5 on Monday to end that second-round Stanley Cup Playoff series and advance to the conference final for the second time in three seasons.
“It’s a great feeling to win the first two rounds,” Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy said. “And after last year (a first round elimination), we kind of [messed] that up, great series overall. They were pretty consistent, we were pretty consistent, all five games were really tight. We were just a little bit better, and that’s great.”
The Islanders could eliminate the Flyers in Game 5 of their best-of-7 series on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS).
Tampa Bay was the No. 2 playoff seed after the round-robin portion of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. It defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets in five games in the first round.
The best-of-7 series will be played at Rogers Place in Edmonton, the hub city for the conference finals and Stanley Cup Final.
Brayden Point leads the Lightning with 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) in the playoffs, and Nikita Kucherov has 16 points (four goals, 12 assists). Ondrej Palat and Victor Hedman each has nine points (five goals, four assists). Vasilevsky is 10-3-0 with a 1.91 goals-against average and .931 save percentage.
“I had to stop the puck a little bit more than last year,” Vasilevskiy said. “So far, not bad, we’ll see. We have work to do ahead of us, like I said, we’ll see.”
Kucherov was injured by a high stick in the first period Monday and left the game with 6:55 remaining in the second.
“We’re really excited we won this series,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “I don’t have an update (on Kucherov). … He did come back afterwards and play for a little bit, so obviously we’re hopeful. Hopefully we get a little bit of a break here so we can rest some guys, including him.”
The Lightning lost two of three games against the Islanders this season. Steven Stamkos, who has not played this postseason because of a lower-body injury, led Tampa Bay with three points (two goals, one assist). Point, Kucherov, Yanni Gourde and Kevin Shattenkirk each scored two points. Vasilevskiy was 1-1-0 with a 2.54 goals-against average and an .884 save percentage. Backup Curtis McElhinney allowed five goals on 19 shots in a 5-1 loss on Dec. 9.
Josh Bailey and Anders Lee led the Islanders with five points each (two goals, three assists) against the Lightning, and Derick Brassard (two goals, one assist) and Mathew Barzal (one goal, two assists) each scored three points. Semyon Varlamov was 1-1-0 with a 1.52 GAA and .951 save percentage in two games. Thomas Greiss made 33 saves in a 5-2 win on Nov. 9.
The Lightning won two games against the Flyers this season, with six players scoring a goal. Kucherov and Pat Maroon each had a goal and an assist, and Stamkos and Hedman each had two assists. Vasilevskiy was 2-0-0 making 53 saves on 56 shots (1.50 GAA, .946 save percentage).
Ivan Provorov and Claude Giroux each had a goal and an assist, and James van Riemsdyk had a goal for the Flyers, who were outscored 6-3 by the Lightning in the two games. Carter Hart allowed five goals on 51 shots (0-2-0, 2.61 GAA, .902 save percentage).
Philadelphia defeated Tampa Bay 4-1 in the round-robin on Aug. 8 to earn the No. 1 seed in the East. New York, the No. 6 seed, eliminated Washington in five games in the first round.
The Lightning and Islanders have played twice in the postseason, with Tampa Bay winning each, the most recent in five games (2016 second round).
Tampa Bay and Philadelphia have played twice in the postseason, each winning once; the Lightning won the most recent in seven games in the 2004 conference final, before winning the Stanley Cup that season.
The Lightning are in the conference final for a sixth time, and the fourth time in six seasons, most recently losing to the Washington Capitals in seven games in 2018.
“We’re a proud group in that room,” Hedman told NBCSN. “We know what we want and we’re not going to take no for an answer, so, I’m so proud of every single one in there.”
Tampa Bay, which lost in the first round to Columbus last season, also made the conference final in 2016 (lost in seven games to Pittsburgh Penguins), 2015 (lost in six games to Chicago Blackhawks in Stanley Cup Final after defeating the New York Rangers in seven games) and 2011 (lost in seven games to Bruins).