UNIONDALE, N.Y. – With goalie Semyon Varlamov out of position in the closing seconds, New York defenseman Ryan Pulock knew he needed to get in the way of Ryan McDonagh's shot at the open net. It was the biggest play in the Islanders' latest series-tying Game 4 win.
Matt Martin capped a three-goal second period, Pulock made a diving stop and the Islanders held on to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 Saturday night to even their Stanley Cup semifinal series at two games apiece.
Josh Bailey and Mathew Barzal also scored, and Cal Clutterbuck and Adam Pelech each had two assists. Semyon Varlamov finished with 28 saves to help the Islanders win a Game 4 to tie a series after dropping the previous game at home for the third time this postseason.
But Pulock made the biggest save with the game on the line.
McDonagh had the puck on the left side in the waning seconds, spun around to get away from Brock Nelson and drew Varlamov forward before sending the puck at the open net. But Pulock’s dive kept the puck out and preserved the win.
“McDonagh got a puck walking down and Varly came out and challenged,” Pulock said. “He made a heck of a play with the spin-o-rama, the net was open and I just tried to make myself big and take it away and I was able to get it.
"Obviously you hear the sound, the clock go and all the boys jump on you. It’s a good feeling.”
Pulock drew plenty of praise from his teammates.
“That's a special play," Bailey said. “Patience to just stick with it. It was a great play by him, a game-saving play, obviously. Huge.”
Barzal agreed, adding: “I think everybody's breath got taken away when that puck was coming. I thought it was going in and then just a miraculous play by Pulley. I'm not going to be forgetting that one.”
Brayden Point had a goal for the seventh straight game, and Tyler Johnson also scored for the defending champion Lightning. Andrei Vasilevskiy finished with 27 saves.
“These guys have given it their all for whatever it’s been now, a month and change (in the playoffs)," Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. "Sometimes you lay an egg and we laid one in the second period.”
Game 5 is Monday night in Tampa, Florida, with Game 6 back at Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday night.
The Lightning pulled Vasilevskiy for an extra skater with about 1:50 left, but he returned to the ice 38 seconds later when Victor Hedman was called for tripping Clutterbuck to give the Islanders a power play.
Point got the Lightning on the scoreboard 3:45 into the third as he brought the puck up the right side and beat Varlamov with a shot from nearly 50 feet out. It was Point's league-best 12th of the postseason and tied Claude Lemieux (1997), Joe Sakic (1996), Mario Lemieux (1996), Pat LaFontaine (1992) and Mario Lemieux (1991) for the longest streak in the last 30 years.
Johnson made it 3-2 nearly 3 minutes later as he got the puck in the corner, skated around one Islanders player, moved toward the net and beat Varlamov up high on the right side with teammate Ross Colton and Pulock screening the goalie.
“They're a heck of a team, so they're going to have their push,” Barzal said. “They're a skilled hockey team over there. We did a good job the last nine minutes after our timeout to kind of turn the momentum a bit."
Varlamov had six saves over the first 3 minutes of the second, including consecutive tries in close by Point that drew chants of “Var-ly! Var-ly!” from the home crowd.
The Lightning were outshooting the Islanders 17-4 at the time, but New York dominated the rest of the period as it scored three times while outworking Tampa Bay with a 17-3 edge on shots on goal.
“We started losing our battles,” Johnson said. “We weren't working as hard as we normally would do. You know you can't win that way. We didn't play a complete 60 minutes. Credit to the Islanders, they came out hard in that second and took the momentum and control. We needed to reset and we just didn't do that. It was a little too late.”
The Islanders got on the scoreboard at 5 1/2 minutes on their third shot on goal of the period. Bailey got a cross-ice pass from Nelson and quickly beat Vasilevskiy high on the glove side from right circle for his sixth of the postseason.
Barzal made it 2-0 with 6:14 left as he got the rebound of a shot by Clutterbuck from the right point and quickly put it into the open net from the left side with Kyle Palmieri screening Vasilevskiy in front. It was Barzal's sixth of the playoffs, all coming in the last nine games.
Martin got the rebound of a shot by Pelech and backhanded it into the top left corner to make it 3-0 with 2:03 left. The Lightning challenged for offside on the entry into the offensive zone, but the play was upheld after a video review — confirming the Islanders' seventh three-goal period in 16 games this postseason.
The team that scored first has won each of the first four games of this series. The Islanders improved to 5-1 when getting the first goal. They are 5-5 when the opponent scores first.
The Lightning, 10-1 when scoring first, fell to 0-4 when allowing the first goal.
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