Islanders top Lightning 2-1 in Game 1 of Stanley Cup semis
TAMPA, Fla. — Semyon Varlamov and the New York Islanders are on a roll.
The veteran goaltender made 30 saves to outplay Andrei Vasilevskiy, and the Islanders got goals from Mathew Barkov and Ryan Pulock to hold off defending champion Tampa Bay 2-1 in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup semifinals.
The Lightning lost a series opener for the first time this postseason. It’s also the first series deficit they’ve faced since dropping Game 1 of last year’s Cup final to the Dallas Stars.
“In our minds Varly is one of the best goalies in the league. When there is a chance against him he’s been there all year for us,” New York’s Jordan Eberle said, adding the Islanders are building confidence by the victory.
“I think if you look at the way the playoffs have gone for us, our game has continued to get better and that’s what you want to see. We’re in the final four, so you should have confidence. This is obviously a good start for us, but we know they are going to come out pushing the next game.”
Varlamov won his fourth straight playoff start, joining teammate Ilya Sorokin as only the third pair of goaltenders from the same team to have personal winning streaks of at least four games in a single postseason.
Sorokin won four in a row during New York’s first-round victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Varlamov won four games in the second round, including the final three as the Islanders rallied to eliminate the Boston Bruins.
“Goaltending is all about timely saves. We’ve got two that have done that for us,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “They have done it all year.”
Barzal opened the scoring when he took a pass from Josh Bailey and skated in just ahead of pursuing defender Jan Rutta to slip the puck through Vasilevskiy’s pads at 12:32 of the second period.
Pulock sent a shot past the Vezina Trophy finalist from just inside the blue line for a two-goal lead at 5:36 of the third.
The best-of-seven series, which continues in Tampa Tuesday night, is a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference final won by the Lightning in six games.
Most of the players are the same, including Varlamov and Vasilevskiy, and the Lightning are very familiar with Trotz, who has faced them at this stage of the playoffs three of the past four seasons.
“It’s frustrating to lose. … But this team is no different than the team we basically played in the bubble,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “We just made too many mistakes, unforced errors. Managing the puck is a big thing against this team.”