Semyon Varlamov made 30 saves and the New York Islanders got goals from Mathew Barzal and Ryan Pulock to beat the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 on Sunday in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup semifinals.
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.
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 Andrei 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 Islanders helped themselves by staying out the penalty box for most the afternoon, limiting the Lightning to just two power-play opportunities — the last coming with 1:38 remaining and producing Tampa Bay’s only goal.
With Vasilevskiy on the bench, the Lightning who already had six skaters on the ice when New York’s Brock Nelson drew a penalty for high-sticking, took advantage on 6-on-4 to get on the board with Braden Point’s ninth goal this postseason with 53 seconds to go.
The best-of-seven series that 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 New York coach Barry Trotz, who has faced them at this stage of the playoffs three of the past four seasons.
Vasilevskiy stopped 29 of 31 shots.
The Islanders are the first team since the 1980 Philadelphia Flyers (Phil Myre, Pete Peeters) to have two goaltenders with win streaks of at least four games in the same playoff year. The Bruins (Eddie Johnston, Gerry Cheevers) were the first team in 1972.
Teams taking a 1-0 lead in conference finals/semifinals have an all-time series record of 127-55.
HOME ICE ADVANTAGE
The Lightning began a series at home for the first time this postseason. Capacity at Amalie Arena was set at 14,800, up from 13,500 in the second round against Carolina. Starting on the road has hardly been a hindrance for the defending champs, who won Games 1 and 2 away from home against the Florida Panthers, as well as the Hurricanes.