NEW YORK — The night began with Lightning forward Brian Boyle getting bumped at mid-ice — during warmups — by the Islanders' Travis Hamonic, the two staring each other down and jawing.
That set the tone for a thrilling Game 3 filled with thunderous hits — 78 in total — and countless plot twists.
But, fittingly, in the end, it was Boyle delivering the final blow, a controversial hit and then the winning goal three minutes into overtime, lifting the Lightning to a 5-4 come-from-behind victory. It silenced the sellout crowd at Barclays Center, giving Tampa Bay a 2-1 series lead in this Eastern Conference semifinal.
"We took some lumps today and kept coming and kept coming," Boyle said. "Resilience. … That was a big word after the win."
Nobody epitomized that more than wing Jonathan Drouin, who continued his improbable Conn Smythe-caliber postseason with a comeback moment. Drouin, knocked out of the game early in the second period on a humongous hit by defenseman Thomas Hickey, returned midway through the third and set up Nikita Kucherov's tying goal with 38.4 seconds left in regulation.
"What a warrior," goalie Ben Bishop said.
So was Bishop, who helped the Lightning weather a first-period storm when it was outshot 17-9 and made some key saves; otherwise this one might have been ugly. He then came up with a few more point-blank stops in the third to keep it a one-goal game, enabling the comeback.
"You need your guy to be there for you," coach Jon Cooper said.
The Lightning was far from perfect, with loose coverage in front of its net leading to all four Islanders goals. But, without top scorer Steven Stamkos and top-pair defenseman Anton Stralman, Tampa Bay continued to find a way. Ryan Callahan scored a momentum-stealing goal with 12 seconds left in the first period to tie it.
Vladislav Namestnikov, filling in for injured Drouin, scored his first career playoff goal three minutes into the third to tie it at 3-3. Drouin, whose head snapped back after absorbing Hickey's shoulder, immediately skated to the bench and into the dressing room. Cooper said he passed every test, then was told to "Do them again" to make sure.
Drouin said he felt fine in the dressing room, returning to the bench midway through the third. Cooper asked him how he was. "I can play," Drouin said. "I wouldn't be out here if I didn't feel like I could."
The Lightning was a minute from a loss, thanks to Cal Clutterbuck's goal with nine minutes to go, but had one final chance with Bishop pulled for the extra attacker. Drouin carried the puck along the left side, feeding Kucherov in the slot for the tying goal.
Boyle won it, first elbowing Hickey at the blueline before crashing the net, pouncing on a rebound from an errant Victor Hedman shot, which caromed off the back boards. The Lightning bench exploded, Cooper pumping his right arm then delivering a that's-got-to-hurt high five with Drouin, who had requested a trade before a six-week holdout/suspension.
"The story's not over," Cooper said. "We're in the first couple chapters. This guy I think is going to write one heck of a hockey story."
Contact Joe Smith at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.
First Period—1, N.Y. Islanders, Bailey 1 (Kulemin, Hamonic), 7:55. 2, Tampa Bay, Callahan 1 (Killorn, Filppula), 19:47 (pp). Penalties—Killorn, TB (holding), 8:11; Bailey, NYI (slashing), 12:46; Cizikas, NYI (tripping), 18:27.
Second Period—3, Tampa Bay, Hedman 2 (Johnson), 8:10. 4, N.Y. Islanders, Leddy 1 (Clutterbuck, Cizikas), 14:50. Penalties—Garrison, TB (slashing), 2:04; Koekkoek, TB (roughing), 5:56; Palat, TB (high-sticking), 5:56; Hamonic, NYI (roughing), 5:56.
Third Period—5, N.Y. Islanders, Bailey 2 (Hickey, Prince), 2:27 (pp). 6, Tampa Bay, Namestnikov 1 (Filppula, Killorn), 3:25. 7, N.Y. Islanders, Clutterbuck 2, 11:23. 8, Tampa Bay, Kucherov 7.Drouin, Hedman), 19:21. Penalties—Cizikas, NYI (boarding), 0:16; Garrison, TB (high-sticking), 1:49; Nelson, NYI (hooking), 7:38.
Overtime—9, Tampa Bay, Boyle 2 (Hedman, Callahan), 2:48. Penalties—None. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 9-17-12-3—41. N.Y. Islanders 17-12-10-0—39. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 1 of 4; N.Y. Islanders 1 of 4. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Bishop 6-2 (39 shots-35 saves). N.Y. Islanders, Greiss 5-4 (41-36). A—15,795. Referees—Brad Watson, Francis Charron. Linesmen—Jay Sharrers, Scott Cherrey.