TAMPA — For the second straight season, the Islanders stand in the Lightning’s way to the Stanley Cup final.
Tampa Bay will again face New York in this year’s Cup semifinals. The Islanders eliminated the Boston Bruins Wednesday at Nassau Coliseum with a 6-2 win in Game 6 of their second-round series.
It marks just the second time in the past 20 years that the same teams have met in the final-four round two seasons in a row. The Blackhawks and Kings met in the Western Conference final in 2013 and 2014.
Because the Lightning had more points (75 to 71) in the regular season, they will hold home-ice advantage. The series will open at Amalie Arena, possibly as soon as Saturday. The schedule has yet to be announced.
The Lightning beat the Islanders in six games in last season’s Eastern Conference final in the Edmonton bubble before going on to defeat the Dallas Stars in the Cup final.
Ironically, that’s the last time Tampa Bay faced New York, as teams played their entire regular season and the first two rounds of the playoffs within their division this season.
The Lightning finished third in the Central Division but beat division rivals Florida and Carolina in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
The Islanders were the fourth and last team to qualify out of the East Division but earned series wins over the top-seeded Penguins and third-seeded Bruins, both in six games.
They trailed the Bruins 2-1 in the series but came back to win three straight games. New York center Jean-Gabriel Pageau had points in four of the last five games of the series.
When the Lightning faced the Islanders in last season’s playoffs, four of the six games were decided by two goals or less, with the final two going to overtime.
Nikita Kucherov led Tampa Bay with 10 points in that series, including a five-point game in the Lightning’s one-sided 8-2 win in Game 1. Victor Hedman had a team-leading four goals, and Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed just 1.83 goals per game, posting a .933 save percentage.
Lightning forward Anthony Cirelli sealed the series win over the Islanders with an overtime goal in Game 6.
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