In the Lightning’s Game 3 overtime win over the Islanders, there were two power-play goals, and the tying goal came with a man advantage when goalie Ben Bishop was pulled.
On Friday night, a vastly different, defense-oriented Game 4 ended 1:34 into overtime when Jason Garrison’s point shot at even strength gave Tampa Bay a 2-1 win.
But the penalty-killers on each team played a major role, especially in the first 40 minutes.
Maybe that shouldn’t have been unexpected. The shorthanded units have fared very well all season. The Lightning ranked fourth at 89.5 percent in the playoffs and seventh at 84.1 during the season, and the Islanders were fifth at 85.2 percent in the playoffs and fourth at 84.1 during the season.
The evening started as if power plays might make a difference. Kyle Okposo scored with 24 seconds left on a Tampa Bay penalty with Mike Blunden in the penalty box at 2:44 of the first period. But that was it through regulation.
The Lightning continued to play the series without a regular penalty-killer, defenseman Anton Stralman, who has a broken fibula and has just begun to attend morning skates.
The Lightning killed off four minutes of roughing penalties by Ryan Callahan at the end of the first, with the Islanders getting just one shot.
“It was undisciplined by me taking those two penalties, and the guys bailed me out,” said Callahan, who averages 1:44 shorthanded. “Our penalty kill’s been big all year and the last series. It’s a big turning point there. They go up 2-0 and you never know what’s going to happen.”
Said Islanders coach Jack Capuano, “We couldn’t exit the zone, couldn’t handle the puck.”
In the second, the Islanders, with Jean-Francois Berube in goal because Thomas Greiss went off for blade repairs, snuffed out a tripping penalty to Casey Cizikas, allowing only two shots on the backup. With Greiss back in the net, the Isles bottled up the visitors twice more. Calvin de Haan almost scored shorthanded but was stopped.
The heavy hitting continued in the third period, during which the officials did not call a penalty, including when Okposo was caught in the mouth by the stick of Garrison.
Without Stralman and star Steven Stamkos, the Lightning has banded together on their behalf. Said Lightning coach Jon Cooper, “A little bit of a mantra for us, to make sure from Day 1 when those guys got hurt, was: ‘Let’s not make that their last game of the year. Let’s stick around long enough to make sure these guys get to play in the playoffs,’ and guys have been buying into that.”