James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.

Islanders withstand Lightning rally, take Game 1

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People will wonder if the Tampa Bay Lightning were rusty, but it doesn’t really matter; the New York Islanders managed to win Game 1 regardless of the spin you put on it.

Tampa Bay made things awfully interesting for at least a spell, as the Isles saw a 4-1 lead shrink to 4-3 in the third period, but an empty-netter locked down a 5-3 win for New York.

It will be intriguing to see if Jon Cooper goes back to Ben Bishop in Game 2. The towering goalie struggled – though shabby defense should be noted, too – before being pulled midway through the second period.

Defense was a little leaky on both sides … although maybe you can chalk that up to the talent on each team, at least to some extent?

For all the attention Steven Stamkos‘ absence rightfully gets, Nikita Kucherov found the net for the sixth time this postseason. Unfortunately for the Lightning, Tavares also scored his sixth of the playoffs, a goal which booted Bishop and ultimately counted as the game-winner.

There were some bumps and bruises in this game, with Erik Condra hurt from a huge hit and even Jack Capuano needing to exit briefly after taking a puck to the head.

The Islanders leave Game 1 with a 1-0 series lead and (for those who believe in it) the “momentum.” If this series is any way to judge, we could be in for a real treat.

Ouch: Isles coach Jack Capuano takes puck to face

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The playoffs test the toughness of players … and sometimes coaches.

Game 1’s hot start for the New York Islanders against the Tampa Bay Lightning meant that tonight started well for Jack Capuano. It took a big downturn when a wayward shot caught Capuano in the head.

The coach left the bench with a towel to his face and has not returned as of this late point in the third period.

Update: Capuano returned just as the Lightning reduced the Isles’ lead to 4-3. Buckle up.

Prince scores twice for Islanders, who chase Bishop from Bolts’ net

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The Minnesota Wild were bounced from the playoffs, but hockey fans got to dust off cheesy Prince jokes for at least one more night.

That’s because Shane Prince enjoyed quite the first period of Game 1 for the New York Islanders against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

He punched in two goals in the opening frame.

You can watch his first goal above the headline and the second one below:

Most people leaned on “Let’s Go Crazy” for their jokes, but there has to be more, right?

(Well, “Party Like it’s 1999” doesn’t really work because the Islanders weren’t very good back then. “Purple rain” seems too easy, even with the Lightning tie-in. Did Prince ever write a song called “Shane?”)

Update: The Islanders bumped their lead to 4-1 on a John Tavares goal, and that was it for Ben Bishop, who was pulled midway through the second period.

Erik Condra helped off ice after brutal Casey Cizikas hit

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The Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders are off to a fast, violent 1-1 start to Game 1.

It’s been exciting stuff, yet there was a really scary moment early on.

Shortly after the Lightning went up 1-0, Casey Cizikas landed an enormous hit on Tampa Bay forward Erik Condra. Condra looked dazed and needed help off of the ice.

It was truly an uncomfortable moment to watch, even factoring in the physicality of this rough sport. You can see the check and Condra’s unsettling reaction in the video above.

Cizikas was not penalized for that hit. Some believe it was dirty, yet it doesn’t seem as controversial as some of the other bigger checks of the postseason.

PHT will keep an eye out for updates regarding Condra’s condition.

2016 Vezina finalists: Ben Bishop, Braden Holtby, Jonathan Quick

AP
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The NHL announced the three finalists for the 2016 Vezina Trophy on Wednesday, answering the question of “which two goalies will lose to Braden Holtby?”

All kidding(?) aside, the final trio is Holtby, Ben Bishop and Jonathan Quick.

Holtby tied Martin Brodeur’s single-season wins record at 48 and helped the Washington Capitals run away with the Presidents’ Trophy. His save percentage was nice at .922.

Bishop was part of a massive tie for fourth place in wins at 35, but his save percentage was a sparkling .926. This season really cemented his spot as a legitimate go-to guy in net.

Quick has been a polarizing goalie for some time, pleasing “mainstream” pundits with his Stanley Cup rings and doing so again with his 40 wins, second only to Holtby. His .918 save percentage might be the sticking point; that mark ties him for 23rd in the NHL among netminders who’ve played at least 20 games.

There are plenty of goalies who enjoyed strong seasons, fueling what’s sure to be a very rational, well-mannered debate … about who should have lost most prominently to Braden Holtby.

Do note that NHL general managers are responsible for the voting.