Lightning Hold Off Isles, Return To Stanley Cup Final

TAMPA — The Lightning’s refusal to lose two in a row during consecutive postseason runs to the Stanley Cup final has resulted in their fourth trip to play for Lord Stanley’s chalice.

Yanni Gourde’s shorthanded goal early in the second period was the only tally as the Lightning closed out the Islanders in Game 7, 1-0, on Friday night at Amalie Arena.

The Lightning host the Montreal Canadiens in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final on Monday night.

“To be in the final back-to-back years is a pretty remarkable accomplishment,” said Cooper.

Tampa Bay improved to a remarkable 13-0 in the postseason the last two years following a defeat, including 6-0 in these playoffs.

“We fall back on past experiences and we have the composure and confidence in the room,” said Steven Stamkos. “It just shows the resilience of this group. We have Vasy back there and it’s just confidence.”

They also had Nikita Kucherov in the lineup. His presence in the pregame skate nearly raised the roof 30 minutes before puck drop.

“There was no question if I was going to play or not,” he said, after being limited to one shift in Game 6.

With Barclay Goodrow off for cross checking 50 seconds into the middle period, Gourde scored the Lightning’s second shorthanded goal of the postseason and his fifth goal of these playoffs at 1:49.

Gourde took a pretty right corner feed from Anthony Cirelli and, from the edge of the right circle, wristed a shot past Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov.

Prior to the goal, Ryan McDonagh and Erik Cernak, back in the lineup, blocked shots as the Isles attempted to break through on the man advantage. McDonagh’s patience in getting out of the zone set the wheels in motion for Gourde’s goal.

“That goal does not happen if those guys don’t go down and block those shots,” said Gourde, whose goal made it 14 times in 18 playoff games that Tampa Bay scored first. “On the goal, Tony attracted three guys to him, made a great pass to me and I wanted to shoot it as quickly as I could.”

Vasilevskiy stopped 18 shots and a bevy of blocked shots kept the Islanders off the board. The Lightning blocked 21 shots, five each by McDonagh and Mikhail Sergachev.

“Another masterful performance in the defensive zone to win a huge Game 7 for us,” said Cooper. “We took the risk out of our game and for the most part kept them to the outside. We went into warrior mode and it was fun to watch.”

Vasilevskiy had a front row seat of his teammates in warrior mode.

“It was a great effort by the whole team and there were great blocks,” said the goalie, who recorded his fourth shutout of this postseason and fifth of his career. “It was a textbook Game 7. We played so well when we needed to. At important moments we raised the bar.”

Much like Game 5, the Lightning came out roaring in front of the home crowd. They had five shot attempts (three on goal) in the first two minutes before the Islanders had their first shot attempt. The difference this time was that the Islanders weathered the storm.

Though the Lightning outshot the Islanders 15-5, and had a number of high-quality shots, including Victor Hedman on a partial break, Varlamov was equal to the task.

The Lightning, though, made it happen during the game’s only special teams situation in getting the shorthanded goal by Gourde.

As a result, they have a chance to win their third Stanley Cup.