Stanley Cup finalists a year ago, the Bolts are back in the Eastern Conference final after eliminating the New York Islanders with a decisive 4-0 victory in Game 5 on Sunday. They await the winner of the Washington Capitals-Pittsburgh Penguins series.
After earning back-to-back overtime wins in Brooklyn, the Lightning returned to Tampa Bay and wasted no time getting after their fourth straight win in this series. Victor Hedman opened the scoring and finished the day with two goals and 27:43 minutes played. Brian Boyle put the Lightning up two goals in the opening period and Nikita Kucherov, who has been lighting it up for Tampa Bay in these playoffs, put this one away with a breakaway goal in the third period.
The Lightning quickly dispatched the Detroit Red Wings in the opening round.
After losing the series opener, they recovered to knock off the Islanders in five games. They also kept Islanders star John Tavares off the score sheet in four straight games. Frans Nielsen had only two points in the series. Same goes for Kyle Okposo.
Again, this is without Stamkos. (Stamkos had returned to practice but said the timeline for a return could be weeks or even months.)
And this is without Stralman. (The Lightning had been hoping he’d make an appearance in the second round.)
Others have stepped up with notable playoff performances so far.
— Hedman has now entered into a four-way tie for top spot among NHL defensemen in goals these playoffs with four, in addition to helping shut Tavares down. He also had eight points in the series versus the Islanders.
— Kucherov leads the NHL in goals these playoffs with nine.
— Tyler Johnson is one point back of the NHL post-season lead.
— Jonathan Drouin, after a tumultuous regular season spurred by that public trade request, has consistently produced at nearly a point-per-game clip.
— Ben Bishop was rolling right along with a .931 save percentage heading into Game 5 on Sunday.