Lightning’s top line dominates to take 3-1 series lead over Islanders

The Tampa Bay Lightning are one step closer to a return to the Stanley Cup Final.

With their 4-1 win over the New York Islanders on Sunday afternoon, the Lightning now have a commanding 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference Final and will have a chance to advance on Tuesday night.

Even though they allowed the first goal on Sunday, a 12-second stretch in the second period where they scored two goals helped swing the game in their favor.

Overall, it was their top line of Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and Ondrej Palat doing a lot of the heavy lifting in the win.

Palat’s goal (set up by Kucherov and Point) midway through the second period counts as the game-winner, while Point added a goal of his own early in the third period to help put the game out of reach. Point was making his return to the lineup after missing Game 3 of the series due to injury and made a very immediate — and very noticeable — impact. With their two point efforts on Sunday, they are now tied for the league scoring lead this season (Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche) with 25 points.

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Overall, it wasn’t a bad effort from the Islanders on Sunday. They had moments where they pushed the play and had their share of chances. But that 12-second breakdown in the second period, as well as their inability to find an answer for the Kucherov-Point-Palat line, proved to be their undoing in this game. When that trio was on the ice during 5-on-5 play (just a little over 11 minutes) the Lightning held a 17-9 shot attempt advantage, a 12-2 shots on goal advantage, and a 2-0 goals advantage. They were the difference.

Now the big question for the Lightning becomes whether or not they can finish this series. This the third time in the past four years they have been the first team to three wins in the Eastern Conference Final, having previously done so against Pittsburgh in 2016 and Washington in 2018. In both of those instances they ended up losing the series when their offense went cold at the worst possible time. They have an opportunity to redeem themselves here. If they can get one more win in this series it will put them in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since the 2014-15 season.

No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. No. 6 New York Islanders (Lightning lead series 3-1)

Series preview
Game 1
: Lightning 8, Islanders 2. (recap)
Game 2: Lightning 2, Islanders 1 (recap)
Game 3: 
Islanders 5, Lightning 3 (recap)
Game 4:
Lightning 4, Islanders 1
Game 5: 
Tuesday, Sept. 15, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Game 6: 
Thursday, Sept. 17, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Game 7: 
Saturday, Sept. 19, 7:30 p.m. ET – NBC

*if necessary

MORE STANLEY CUP COVERAGE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs Conference Final schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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