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Defending champs Tampa ousts Isles, to face Canadiens in final

Defending champs Tampa ousts Isles, to face Canadiens in final

Forward Yanni Gourde scored a shorthanded goal and Andrei Vasilevskiy recorded his fourth shutout of the postseason as the Tampa Bay Lightning booked their spot in the NHL finals with a 1-0 victory over the New York Islanders.

Vasilevskiy stopped 18 shots to earn his fifth career playoff shutout and fourth of these playoffs as the defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning edged the Islanders in game seven on Friday.

The Lightning will now square off against the upstart Montreal Canadiens in the NHL best-of-seven championship series which begins Monday in Florida.

“They’re going to get the best team that they’ve played against so far, and we’re going to get the best team that we’ve played against so far,” Lightning forward Steven Stamkos said of the Canadiens.

Tampa Bay have now won 14 straight games after a playoff defeat, which says plenty about their ability to bounce back after a loss.

Head coach Jon Cooper and his players were not taking anything for granted in their bid to become the first repeat champions since the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and 2017.

“I love the way our team has responded in the playoffs after losses,” Cooper said.

Vasilevskiy has been a big part of their success, earning a shutout in each of Tampa Bay’s past four series-clinching victories, including game six of last year’s Stanley Cup finals against Dallas.

The Lightning have outscored the Islanders 9-0 in their last two home games. They also lost game six to New York 3-2 in overtime, in a series which has featured five games decided by just one goal.

Gourde scored early in the second period while the Islanders were enjoying the man advantage. He charged off the bench and took a pass from teammate Anthony Cirelli in the slot and blasted a one-timer past Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov for the only goal.

Varlamov stopped 30 shots for the Islanders, who have been eliminated by the Lightning in the final four for the second consecutive year.

The Islanders were hoping to reach the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 1984, when their run of four consecutive titles was snapped by the Edmonton Oilers.

Tampa’s Brayden Point had his nine-game goal streak ended. He finished one shy of tying the NHL record set by Reggie Leach, who scored in 10 straight playoff games with the Philadelphia Flyers in 1976.

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