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Semyon Varlamov was Islanders' best player in Game 7

Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov makes a save on

Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov makes a save on a shot by the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game 7 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Friday, June 25, 2021, in Tampa. Credit: AP/Chris O'Meara

TAMPA, Fla. — If president and general manager Lou Lamoriello allowed such individual awards, Semyon Varlamov would be the Islanders’ MVP.

The goalie certainly showed why even as the Islanders’ thrilling playoff run came to an unsatisfying conclusion with a 1-0 loss to the defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning in Game 7 of their NHL semifinal series on Friday night at Amalie Arena.

Varlamov made 30 saves — including 15 in the first period — as the Lightning continually hemmed the Islanders in their own zone. Yanni Gourde’s shorthander at 1:49 of the second period was the lone goal; this was the first Game 7 in NHL history to end 1-0 on a shorthanded goal.

"Varly was big for us," defenseman Scott Mayfield said. "I think he’s one of the main reasons we’re here. He had another great game and it stinks to lose it."

Varlamov, in the second season of a four-year, $20 million deal, went 19-11-4 with a team-record 2.04 goals-against average, which, like his .929 save percentage, was a career best. His seven shutouts tied Chico Resch’s club mark.

He went 7-7 with a 2.56 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage in the postseason. Ilya Sorokin won all four games in the first round against the Penguins before Varlamov, who suffered a lower-body tweak in the regular-season finale, reclaimed the net in the second round against the Bruins.

"Varly has been unbelievable for us all year," Brock Nelson said. "No surprise the way he played tonight. He kept us in it and gave us a chance. He’s probably been our best player throughout the course of the year."

Among his best saves in Game 7, Varlamov stopped Alex Killorn from the slot at 1:07 of the first period and denied Gourde on a two-on-one at 16:05 of the second period.

New York Sports