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EDMONTON — Brock Nelson broke a tie with 3:25 left, Semyon Varlamov made 34 saves and the New York Islanders beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-3 in Game 3 of the NHL’s Eastern Conference final on Friday night.
The Islanders rebounded from a stunning finish to Game 2 to trim their deficit to 2-1 in the best-of-seven matchup, but it wasn’t easy.
Tampa Bay wiped out a two-goal deficit in the first 13 minutes of the final period before Nelson, who also had an assist, beat goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy off a pass from Anthony Beauvillier. Jean -Gabriel Pageau added an empty-netter in the last minute.
Cal Clutterbuck, Adam Pelech and scored for New York, helping the Islanders build a 3-1 lead through two periods.
Tampa Bay cut into its deficit with Ondrej Palat’s power-play goal at 2:32 of the third period and pulled even a little more than 10 minutes later when Tyler Johnson redirected Erik Cernak’s shot from the right circle past Varlamov.
The Lightning played without injured leading scorer Brayden Point and another key player, Alex Killorn, who was serving a one-game suspension for a blindside hit that drove Nelson face-first into the boards in Game 2.
Despite losing Game 2 on Nikita Kucherov’s goal with 8.8 seconds remaining, the Islanders entered Friday night feeling good about their chances of climbing back into the series. Clutterbuck got them off to a promising start, and Pelech’s first career playoff goal gave New York a 2-1 lead at 11:50 of the second period.
Two minutes later, Nelson skated around the back of the net before feeding Beauvillier in front of Vasilevskiy for a 3-1 lead.
NOTES: The Islanders ended a six-game post-season losing streak against Tampa Bay, a stretch that began during an East semifinal matchup between the teams in 2016. … With Point and Killorn out, Mitchell Stephens and Carter Verhaeghe were inserted into Tampa Bay’s lineup. … Before Friday night, Vasilevskiy had yielded two or fewer goals in five straight games — all Tampa Bay victories.
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