Czech hockey forward Ondřej Palát helped Tampa Bay with one goal to win over the New York Islanders 8: 2 in the opening duel of the final series of the Eastern Conference in Edmonton.
The main credit for the overwhelming Lightning win went to Palát’s first-time teammates Brayden Point and Nikita Kučerov, who scored the same five points each.
The New York team started their first conference finals since 1993 unhappily, with Tampa players completely dominating the first game of the series and breaking the club record from the 2011 playoffs, when they beat Pittsburgh by the same difference.
The excellent entry of Lightning into the match was taken by Islanders goalkeeper Thomas Greiss, who in the 11th minute, after the third collected goal from nine shots at 1: 3, left the goal and left Semjon Varlamov instead.
But even the Russian goalkeeper could not stop the cannonade of Tampa. Five Lightning players scored more than one Canadian point, the five-point Point (2 + 3) and Kučerov (1 + 4) even set a club record in the playoffs.
“We’ve been playing great as a team lately. We’re responsible for the puck, our game is in order and we’re making the right decisions on the ice. Today we played an absolutely fantastic match,” Point said.
Kučerov scored the 34th goal in the playoffs in his career and became independent at the head of the club tables in front of Martin St. Louis. Palát also made Lightning history, being the club’s first player to score in five playoff games in a row.
In the 50th minute, Palát, together with Point and Kučerov, completely dismantled the Islanders’ defense, the Czech player bluffed Varlamov with a bluff in the forehand and increased it to 7: 2.
Ondřej Palát’s goal:
The native from Frýdek-Místek scored the sixth goal in this year’s elimination fights and together with the defender Victor Hedman he shares the second place among the team shooters. Only Point is better, with 23 points the second most productive player in the entire playoffs, who has won eight times.
“We didn’t play for a week, so we didn’t really know what to expect from our performance. But Pointer (Point) completely ignored our concerns. He dictated the pace of the game from the beginning of the match, he was just incredible,” Hedman praised the elite center.
Enthusiasm from the performance was easily curbed by Tampa coach Jon Cooper, who warned against the further course of the series. “Let’s be honest, this probably won’t happen again. The Islanders played their seventh duel with Philadelphia and immediately had to move from Toronto to Edmonton, they basically had no time to rest. When we have the same pre-match conditions the next day,” Cooper said.
Islanders captain Anders Lee was not looking for an excuse in travel. “We’re used to the shifts from the classic season. I don’t think that was the reason for our loss today,” said Lee, who assisted with both New York goals. “Tampa punished any of our mistakes today. They were able to take advantage of virtually every danger we lost,” added Jordan Eberle, a two-point spot.
NHL Playoff Semifinals:
Eastern Conference – Match 1 (Edmonton):
Tampa Bay – New York Islanders 8:2 (3:1, 2:0, 3:1)
Goals: 2nd and 34th Point, 25th and 54th Gourde, 9th Hedman, 11th McDonagh, 46th Kucerov, 50th. Palát – 5. Eberle, 49. Leddy. Shots on goal: 34:25. Played without spectators. Match stars: 1. Point, 2. Kučerov, 3. Hedman (all Tampa).