On the scoreboard, the Tampa Bay Lightning was still in charge.
On the ice, it must not have felt that way.
It was in the second period, and suddenly, the lead felt wobbly. The New York Islanders awoke, and for once, they flashed a little fight. They got 11 shots in the second period, and they trimmed a three-goal deficit to two, and if not for the play of goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, they might have shaved it to one. Frankly, it felt like a bit of trouble.
And then came Brian Boyle.
Yeah, that Brian Boyle.
Boyle, the Bolts’ fourth-line center, ripped a goal into the net only 68 seconds after the third period began, and suddenly, the Lightning was back in control and on its way to a 4-1 win.
“It popped their balloon a little bit,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “It sucked a little air out of their tires.”
Oh, Boyle isn’t the scorer that other Lightning players are. For instance, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov scored in the first period, and Tyler Johnson in the second. But the timing of the Boyle goal was perfect. It came as the Islanders were about to seize momentum.
Vasilevskiy was large for the Lightning, too. He stopped 31 of 32 shots, including a four-on-one.
“We stopped playing 200 feet,” Cooper said. “We had some horrific changes. We only gave up one goal, and the reason we only gave up one was Vasy. He’s a bona fide goaltender in this league.”
It was a solid game for the Bolts. For once, they took an early lead. They finished strong. They got good goaltending. They got points from their stars. They had a good power play. And they won.
Stamkos joked that Boyle’s goal really wasn’t anything special. Of course, Boyle was standing next to him at the time.
“Lucky shot if you ask me, haha,” Stamkos said. “No, anytime you get a two-goal lead, they say that’s probably one of the worst ones to have in the third. That was a big goal. It gives you some breathing room and still allows you to make plays, and I thought we had a really solid third period.”
Stamkos also had praise for Vasilevskiy.
“Vasy was outstanding,” Stamkos said. “He made some huge saves. He was big with a couple breakaway saves. We know what we’re going to get from Vasy, and he’s going to make some huge saves with his athletic ability.”
Said Victor Hedman: “He played unbelievable. He bailed us out especially there in that last part of the second period. He came up big for us. He stopped the breakaway in the third and had a lot of big saves and moved the puck well too. We have two of the best goalies in the league and that’s comforting for us to know that we have him there to bail us out.”
The Lightning, 8-5-1 on the year, plays against San Jose Saturday.