The Wraparound: Islanders’ Mat Barzal starts series on the right foot

The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down the NHL playoff games today with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

Mat Barzal was one of the best players on the ice as the Islanders beat the Bruins in the Second Round. To beat the defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning, they’ll need something similar.

One game in, and so far so good.

Barzal scored the Islanders’ first goal in their 2-1 win in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals. They trailed last series on the road and came back, but beat the Penguins in overtime in Game 1 in the First Round.

The Islanders have been the road team to open all three series, and in the first two Game 1s, it didn’t matter if they won or lost, they still won the all-important fourth game. Still, a Game 1 road win is an automatic momentum shift, and the Penguins never really recovered in that First Round.

[NBC 2021 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

The Lightning are a very different team than their first two opponents, but the Islanders have shown no hesitance against any squad they’ve faced. Barzal had a slow start in the First Round, but found his footing against the Bruins.

Game 1 was a sign the young forward is ready for another strong showing.

“I’d say it’s more so just I’m actually putting the puck in the net,’’ Barzal said after Game 1. “I think my chances throughout the whole season, or in the playoffs, are always there. It’s just a matter of beating the goalie. In the Pittsburgh series, when I didn’t score, still playing well, and playing the right way.”

In his first eight postseason games, Barzal wasn’t much of a factor. In his last five, though, he has four goals and six points.

There’s been a stark difference in his game, though he doesn’t think there’s much he’s changed. Perhaps it is just the results starting to fall for the young forward, but that impact could steal the Islanders their third consecutive series as the underdog.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 schedule, TV info]

“This is the playoffs…. I don’t need to get the fifth goal when we’re up 4-1, you know?” he said. “So it’s just a matter of trying to be there for the boys when they need me and doing the right things.”

The Lightning hadn’t trailed yet in a playoff series until this round. They took the first two games on the road in Florida in the First Round, then toppled the Hurricanes in five games.

But like the Lightning aren’t the Penguins or Bruins, the Islanders aren’t the Hurricanes or Panthers. They win one-goal games, Semyon Varlamov steals contests, and Barzal is playing like one of the stars of the league.

TUESDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 2: Islanders at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (NYI leads 1-0) – NBCSN / Peacock (livestream)

WEDNESDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 2: Canadiens at Golden Knights, 9 p.m. ET (VGK leads 1-0) – NBCSN / Peacock (livestream)

Marisa Ingemi is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop her a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Ingemi.

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