Brayden Point scored twice and delivered three assists as the Tampa Bay Lightning trounced the New York Islanders 8-2 in game one of the NHL Eastern Conference final on Monday.
Nikita Kucherov added one goal and four assists for the Lightning, who looked rested, not rusty, after nearly a week off since their series win over the Boston Bruins.
Yanni Gourde scored twice, Victor Hedman had a goal and two assists, and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 23 saves for second-seeded Tampa Bay.
“We’re playing so well,” Point said. “We’re playing with structure, we’re playing responsible with the puck, we’re making the right plays. I think our team has been so good.”
New York goaltender Thomas Greiss allowed three goals on nine shots before he was pulled at 10:46 of the first period.
He was replaced by Semyon Varlamov, who made 20 saves for the sixth-seeded Islanders, who wrapped up a 4-3 series win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday, then travelled from Toronto to the NHL’s second playoff hub in Edmonton, Alberta.
“This game, we’ll wash it away,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “We’ve lost some heartbreakers in overtime, some real hard matches and all that. Sometimes you get it handed to you like we did today.”
Game two is on Wednesday in Edmonton, where all games in the conference finals and the Stanley Cup final will be played.
Point put the Lightning up 1-0 1:14 into the first period, driving across the crease and shooting past the outstretched pad of Greiss.
“We haven’t played for a week, and you were wondering how the start was going to be,” Hedman said. “And then [Point] went out and did that.”
Jordan Eberle scored a power-play goal to tie it 1-1 at 4:33 before Hedman gave the Lightning a 2-1 advantage with a power-play goal at 8:12 of the first.
Ryan McDonagh’s slap shot made it 3-1 at 10:46.
Gourde got to a loose puck in the crease to stretch the lead to 4-1 at 4:03 of the second and Point made it 5-1 when he redirected a shot from Hedman on a power play at 13:18.
Kucherov made it 6-1 when he converted a pass from Point on a 2-on-1 at 5:51 of the third period.
After Nick Leddy cut it to 6-2 Palat scored for the fifth straight game to make it 7-2, and Gourde scored a power-play goal for the final 8-2 margin.
The Lightning matched their playoff goal-scoring record, first set in an 8-2 win over Pittsburgh in the first round in 2011.
But Lightning coach Jon Cooper said he expected the Islanders to make things more difficult in game two of the best-of-seven series, which will send the winner to the Stanley Cup final.
“They’re a proud group,” he said. “I don’t expect them to roll over for us. It’s just one game.”