The New York Islanders could have shrugged their shoulders and gone out with a whimper after their two-goal lead against the Tampa Bay Lightning slipped away in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Friday.
Sure, there’s character up and down the lineup, a big reason New York, the No. 6 seed in the East, is one of four teams remaining in the bubble. But between Tyler Johnson’s tying goal with 7:56 remaining in the third period and Nikita Kucherov’s game-winner with nine seconds remaining in Game 2 that allowed Tampa Bay, the No. 2 seed, to extend its series lead, the Islanders could have looked at each other and said, “OK, this just isn’t our year.”
But they’re not going away without a fight, not after Brock Nelson, who was on the wrong end of an illegal hit into the boards and a cross-check in Game 2, restored New York’s lead to 4-3 with 3:25 left. The resolve was on full display when Jean-Gabriel Pageau outraced Kucherov for an empty-net goal in the final minute for a 5-3 win.
“There’s been a number of times where we’ve faced tough situations and we don’t pack it in. Packing it in is just not a thought.”