Sports

Islanders defeat Lightning to force a Game 7 in Eastern Conference finals

Nikita Kucherov missed the regular season after hip surgery.

Nikita Kucherov missed the regular season after hip surgery.
Image: AP

The NHL will get another Game 7, this one between the Islanders and Lightning, as the Isles fought back from a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 in overtime to tie the series. And I really should spend this section talking about Mathew Barzal’s star turn, as he was basically unplayable for all of Game 6 (even if his name is missing a T), or the sheer stubbornness of the Isles, who are just relentless. This is a team lacking names behind Barzal, especially with Anders Lee injured, and yet they’re one game away from playing for the Cup.

But this is hockey, and it can’t help itself. You could argue the game turned on this:

There’s no doubt that this is intentional. And again, ref Chris Lee is standing no more than three feet from it. While press and fans have always laughed or been frustrated by hockey’s vagueness on injury reports, this is why. That’s the hip Nikita Kucherov had surgery on that caused him to miss the regular season, and there’s almost no way Scott Mayfield isn’t taking dead aim at it for that reason. It’s not a hockey play, it has nothing to do with defense, it’s just a cheap shot.

No penalty. Because really, why would there be?

Kucherov missed the rest of the game. It’s a long way to go to connect this to the Lightning’s loss, and hockey games turn on dozens of little moments and inches. It was the Bolts’ choice to play with 11 forwards, and then go down to 10, which certainly saw them flag a bit in the third period and overtime, as well as missing one of their biggest offensive weapons.

What we can say is that the Lightning lost a player, and they didn’t get a power-play out of a clearly illegal crosscheck. This isn’t “tough playoff hockey.” It’s just garbage. And if Kucherov doesn’t play in Game 7, then the Islanders would have benefited greatly from it. That’s not how this is supposed to work.

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