New York Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov, left, slides head first into a pack of teammates celebrating Jordan Eberle's game-winning goal in double overtime against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference final series
Los Angeles (AFP) - Jordan Eberle scored the game winner in double overtime, finishing off a two-on-one break with Anders Lee as the New York Islanders staved off playoff elimination by beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 on Tuesday.
Eberle buried a one-timer at 12:30 of the second extra session to cut the Lightning’s lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference final series to 3-2.
The play started with Lee chipping the puck off the boards and out of his own zone then racing up the ice and waiting for the perfect moment to slip it over to Eberle who fired a shot past a sliding Tampa goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Islanders coach Barry Trotz said he knew his players wouldn’t go down without a fight.
“Our guys didn’t waver, they just kept grinding,” Trotz said. “We didn’t give up and that’s a great sign for moving forward.”
Game 6 will be Thursday in Edmonton with a berth in the Stanley Cup finals against the Dallas Stars up for grabs.
Game seven, if necessary, is scheduled for Saturday.
New York goaltender Semyon Varlamov made 36 saves in a brilliant performance, especially in overtime.
The Lightning, who won the Stanley Cup in 2004, are missing their two top players, Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos.
Point was injured in game two and missed game three. He returned for game four but didn’t play late in the third period after going hard into the boards with New York’s Adam Pelech.
Point leads the Lightning with nine goals and is tied for the league lead with 25 points.
Stamkos hasn’t played since undergoing core muscle surgery on March 2.
The task was simple for the Islanders on Tuesday: win or go home.
The Islanders opened the scoring when Ryan Pulock scored with the man advantage. Pulock unloaded a bullet from the left point for his team’s second powerplay goal of the series at the 15:41 mark of the opening period.
Victor Hedman, of Sweden, replied four minutes into the second period to tie the score 1-1. Hedman glided into a slap shot from the high slot and beat Varlamov on the short side.
Hedman joins American Brian Leetch as the first defenceman to score eight goals in a single playoff. Leetch had 11 in 1994.
“It came down to one play. It’s tough for us obviously, but this is hockey,” Hedman said. “It’s how you respond to this that’s going to define you as a team. I’m not worried about how our group’s going to respond to this.”
The Islanders had to kill off a four-minute penalty to Anthony Beauvillier for high sticking that was called with just 83 seconds left in the third period and stretched into the first overtime.