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Lightning play the Islanders' game but can’t close out the conference final

For the third time in three series, the Lightning go into overtime with a chance to advance in Game 5.
The Lightning's Nikita Kucherov (86) battles for the puck against the Islanders' Adam Pelech (3) and Semyon Varlamov (40) during the first overtime period in Game 5.
The Lightning's Nikita Kucherov (86) battles for the puck against the Islanders' Adam Pelech (3) and Semyon Varlamov (40) during the first overtime period in Game 5. [ MARKO DITKUN | Special to the Times ]
Published Sep. 16, 2020|Updated Sep. 16, 2020

The Lightning missed their first chance to secure a spot in the Stanley Cup final.

Game 5 had been their lucky charm in the playoffs, as they advanced out of both previous series in overtime of the fifth game. Tuesday lined up a possibility of a repeat when the Islanders and Lightning went into not one, but two extra periods.

Tampa Bay couldn’t pull it out this time. The Islanders won 2-1 at Edmonton’s Rogers Place.

Related: Nikita Kucherov, Mikhail Sergachev, Ondrej Palat all playing through injuries and issues in double overtime

Tampa Bay still leads the series 3-2 and will get another opportunity to advance in Game 6 Thursday (8 p.m., NCBSN).

“It came down to one play,” defenseman Victor Hedman said. “It’s tough for us, obviously, but you know, this is hockey.”

In 13 seconds, the Lightning swung from a great chance themselves to the game being over. Center Anthony Cirelli skated in on the net. Even as he was tripped up, Cirelli got a shot off, but it went wide.

Four seconds later, defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk had a look off a faceoff, but whiffed on the shot. Islanders captain Anders Lee raced up the wing to chase down the loose puck. Gaining the Lightning zone, he fed a pass across to Eberle, who scored driving up the right wing.

This low-scoring, low-shot game fits the Islanders' style more directly than the Lightning’s. New York is a defense-first team, one that has allowed the fewest goals while not scoring very many.

In 91:12 over five periods, the Lightning only took six more shots than their regular-season regulation average of 31.

“We should shoot a little bit more,” Hedman said. “We passed up some opportunities but I think we had some good looks.”

While the Lightning’s number was low for them, they still outshot the Islanders and kept New York below its regular-season average with 24 shots in the game.

Vasilevskiy went 12 minutes without seeing a shot at one point across the second and third periods.

Alex Killorn said the Islanders' game is to test the opponents' patience and wait for the Lightning to make a mistake.

Tampa Bay fell into that trap in Game 3, its other loss of this series. This time, the Lightning were more ready to play that game.

Tuesday’s contest featured more combined blocked shots (62) than shots on net (61). The Lightning’s Erik Cernak and Islanders' Johnny Boychuk each blocked a game-high six shots.

Boychuk blocked a shot from Hedman with his skate in the first period, and needed a shove from his goalie to get off the ice. Cernak got in the way of three shots from center Mathew Barzal in one delayed penalty in the second period.

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In a game low on shots, high on blocks and with both teams dressing seven defensemen, maybe it was fitting that the only goals of regulation came from blueliners.

Ryan Pulock put the Islanders on the board with a rocket from the left point with 4:19 left in the first period.

Victor Hedman, who is scoring at a career-high rate, matched him in the second period. He sank to about the top of the left circle to pounce on a rebound and place it top shelf.

Those stood as the only goals for more than 60 minutes into the second overtime. Then one play in a “game of inches,” as Killorn called it, turned out to be the deciding factor, undoing 91 minutes of play before.

Contact Diana C. Nearhos at dnearhos@tampabay.com. Follow @dianacnearhos on Twitter.

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