EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — Islanders forward Jordan Eberle knew exactly what to do upon seeing teammate and captain Anders Lee pounce on the loose puck once Tampa Bay’s Kevin Shattenkirk whiffed on his shot from the right point.
Eberle raced up the middle, drove to the net and converted Lee’s pass to cap a two-on-one break and keep the Islanders’ playoff hopes alive. The goal, scored 12:30 into the second overtime, sealed a 2-1 win over the Lightning in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference final series Tuesday night.
”Things happen quick out there. You’ve got to react. You see the fanned shot. You see Leesy poke it by,” said Eberle, who scored his second winner of the postseason. ”You’ve played this game a long time, you know when you have odd-man rushes and an opportunity is about to come. Leesy made a heck of a play to get the puck over to me.”
The sixth-seeded Islanders cut the second-seeded Lightning series lead to 3-2, with Game 6 scheduled for Thursday night. The winner will advance to the Stanley Cup Final and face West champion Dallas, which eliminated Vegas in five games on Monday night.
Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock also scored and Semyon Varlamov capped a 36-save outing by skating the length of the ice and making a head-first dive into the pile of players mobbing Eberle.
”I don’t know. I just jumped because I was so excited for us,” Varlamov said of his celebration. ”When we scored that goal, it was just a lot of emotions going through in that moment. I was just happy for the guys, so happy for us. We have a chance to continue to play.”
Relief had something to do with it, too, in a game the Islanders were limited to 24 shots, and no more than six in a period. And they weathered killing off a four-minute double-minor for high-sticking called against Anthony Beauvillier with 1:23 left in regulation.
The goal came off the Lightning winning a faceoff to the left of the Islanders net. The puck was drawn back to Shattenkirk, who fanned on the shot. It dribbled to Lee, who banked the puck off the sideboards to get around Shattenkirk.
”It took the stars aligning on a fanned shot for them to get the break they got,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. ”We had opportunities to put the game away.”
Victor Hedman scored for the Lightning, and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 22 shots.
The Lightning were minus co-leading playoff scorer Brayden Point, who had a goal and assist in a 4-1 win in Game 4 after missing a 5-3 loss in Game 3 with an undisclosed injury. Tampa Bay’s other co-leader, Nikita Kucherov, was shaken up eight minutes into the second period Tuesday, but returned and had several scoring chances in the third period and overtime.
Cooper called it ”hard to tell right now” as to whether Point will be able to play Thursday.
One thing Hedman was sure of, is knowing the Lightning will bounce back.
”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 opened the scoring 15:41 in on Pulock’s power-play goal, just their second in 15 opportunities this series.
The Lightning responded with Hedman tying the game 4 minutes into the second period.
Tampa Bay’s Carter Verhaeghe had a goal overturned 10:01 into the second period, when the Islanders challenged the play for being offside. Replays showed Tampa Bay’s Cedric Paquette clearly entered New York’s zone well ahead of the puck.
The Lightning dropped to 4-1 in overtime games this postseason, including a 5-4 5OT win over Columbus in Game 1 of their first-round series.
The Islanders continue to persevere in being the only team left that played a best-of-five preliminary round series, and showed signs of fatigue in opening the series against Tampa Bay with an 8-2 loss.
New York’s offense has fizzled in managing just 11 goals against Tampa Bay, including a 5-3 win in Game 3. The Islanders had combined for 28 goals in their previous eight games.
Coach Barry Trotz shook up his lines Tuesday, shifting Cal Clutterbuck to the Islanders’ top line alongside Lee and Barzal. Clutterbuck took the spot of Eberle, who opened the game alongside Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Matt Martin.
”Our guys didn’t waver – they just kept grinding,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. ”We didn’t give up and that’s a great sign for moving forward.”
NOTES: Isles D Johnny Boychuk returned after sustaining a head injury in the third period of a playoff-opening 2-1 win over Florida on Aug. 1. … Boychuk had an eventful first period. He was doubled over in pain after getting struck by Nikita Kucherov’s shot six minutes in. In the final minute of the first period, Boychuk’s skate blade broke, and he had difficulty getting to the bench, after blocking Hedman’s shot from the left point. … Hedman’s goal was his eighth, the most by a defenseman in the playoffs since Brian Leetch scored 11 for the 1994 Cup-winning New York Rangers.
Game 6 is Thursday night at 8 p.m. EDT.
For more AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports
What to make of Packers’ early success on offense
Through two weeks of football, the Green Bay Packers’ offense looks super.
The Packers finished Week 2 ranked No. 1 in DVOA, points and yards. While it’s too early to say this will be standard operating procedure for the Packers, a few clues into “how” this team has produced so much offense so early may suggest this 2020 offensive unit will be a prolific one.
So what, exactly, is different? How are they scoring so many points? The answer, at least from this viewer’s eyes, is that the Packers have bought and matured into Matt LaFleur’s offensive system, especially No. 12.
Let’s start with the system. “Illusion of complexity” was the chorus LaFleur repeated last season when asked to explain his offensive system. Yet, 2019’s offense looked more like a Mike McCarthy-Aaron Rodgers-Matt LaFleur Frankenstein that, despite its efforts to appease all stakeholders, never came together into the coherent whole we’re seeing now. Last season’s Packers could operate smoothly in flashes, but they’d peetered out after a quarter or half. Rarely did they sustain production for an entire game.
This year, the Packers have grown into their once-awkward feet and out of their braces, developing into a fully matured offense capable of threatening defenses in multiple ways. We can now see the aesthetic quality of LaFleur’s illusion of complexity. The Packers operate through ambiguous personnel groupings and constant pre-snap motion. Any one player may be playing mutliple positions. Plays and concepts are built upon each other. The end result is an offense that challenges defenses all over the field: in the trenches, along the boundary, and deep down the field. Not only that, but the players –the same ones many had written off just a few months ago – are nailing down the essential details to make the offense hum to its desired tune.
Let’s start with the running game, which is featuring every bit of Aaron Jones’ athletic ability. The Packers relied heavily on inside and outsize zone running concepts last season. This year, the line is quicker and more fluid by way of reps and continunity, and the backs understand their landmarks. The newish wrinkle, however, is LaFleur mixing in some more split zone and gap schemes. Like the Niners of last year, the Packers are executing multiple run schemes, which has the direct benefit of keeping first- and second-level defenders playing honest. Gap looks different than zone, and hesitation on the front line makes life easier for the Packers up front. It also creates confusion for linebackers and box safeties. Add in the jet and orbit motion with Tyler Ervin and it’s no wonder why we saw the Lions’ defenders running into each other pre-snap.
The maturity also extends to the passing game, which begins with the changes Rodgers has made to his game. He talked during camp about re-watching some 2010 tape, suggesting there were a few things that he’s since tweaked in his current play. While his accuracy has seen an uptick in improvement, the biggest difference is his efficiency within the pocket. Rodgers is getting the ball out quickly while also showing a willingness to target the middle of the field, for example the “mesh” concept, a staple in the LaFleur system. In each of the last two weeks, the Packers have found tons of success hitting the shallow crosser. Aaron Jones, Allen Lazard, Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling have all been beneficiaries of the concept. A lot of that success is a credit to Rodgers, but the skill positions are doing their part, too.
On a drive against Detroit, Rodgers hit Jones for a shallow cross, which he took upfield down the opposing sideline for a big gain. On the play, tight end Robert Tonyan, who was running and crossing Jones, fades his route a few yards deeper in order to free a runway for Jones. It would have been a completion either way, but Tonyan’s subtle route modifcation helped turn a solid completion into an explosive play.
The Packers have also found some more production out of their much-maligned third-year receiver, Marquez Valdes-Scantling. While he hasn’t turned in perfect performances, Valdes-Scantling’s vertical ability has challenged defenses over the top. In Week 1, MVS caught a 45-yard touchdown pass, and on Sunday he grabbed another ball along the sideline for 41 yards. His 4.3 speed can’t be understated. With all the stress the Packers put on defenses horizontally via mesh, jet/orbit motion, and outside zone, MVS’ vertical speed add an entirely different dimension of difficult.
Edouard Mendy announcement, Declan Rice latest plus possible exits
Chelsea could still add more new faces before the summer transfer deadline closes next month.
The Blues have spent more than £200million so far with Kai Havertz, Timo Werner and Ben Chilwell the headline arrivals in a busy summer at Stamford Bridge. Hakim Ziyech, Thiago Silva and Malang Sarr have also joined as Frank Lampard looks to shape the squad into what he hopes will be title challengers.
There could be more to come too. Goalkeeper Edouard Mendy is set to arrive from Rennes in a £22million deal to replace Kepa Arrizabalaga who endured another torrid afternoon against Liverpool blighted by another costly mistake. They could yet test West Ham’s resolve over Declan Rice too with Lampard known to be a big admirer. There is likely to be exits too with N’golo Kante linked with Inter Milan, Tiemoue Bakayoko with PSG and Fikayo Tomori a possible loan departure to Everton. We’ll have all the latest for you throughout the day.
Matt LaFleur downplays severity of Davante Adams’ hamstring injury
The second half of Sunday’s game saw the Packers outscore the Lions 25-7 en route to a 42-14 victory that moved them to 2-0 on the season.
While things looked great on the scoreboard, it wasn’t all positives for the Packers after halftime. Wide receiver Davante Adams left the game with a hamstring injury and did not return.
Monday saw a lot of bad injury news delivered around the league, but Adams was not on that list. Packers head coach Matt LaFleur gave a positive update about the wideout’s condition during his press conference.
“I know he wanted to go back in the game,” LaFleur said, via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I just told him, ‘Hey, let’s see how these next few series go, and see if we need you’ Obviously, he’s a huge part of what we do offensively and a key member of this football team. If we don’t need him, we didn’t want to put him back in a position to do further harm to his own body.”
Wednesday’s practice report will provide another update to Adams’ condition. If he’s on the field, it will be another good sign for his availability against the Saints in Week Three.
Matt LaFleur downplays severity of Davante Adams’ hamstring injury originally appeared on Pro Football Talk
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