TAMPA — There wasn’t much else that Semyon Varlamov could do.
The Islanders goaltender was a brick wall for nearly 60 minutes in the 1-0 loss to the Lightning in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup semifinal Friday night at Amalie Arena. The defeat ended the Islanders’ season just one game closer to reaching the Stanley Cup Final than they got last year.
With 30 saves on 31 shots, Varlamov gave up one goal on a wide-open shorthanded shot from Yanni Gourde while a group of Islanders skaters crowded Anthony Cirelli in the corner of their zone. Gourde jumped off Tampa Bay’s bench and darted in before any Islander realized and blasted a feed from Cirelli less than two minutes into the second period for the game’s only score.
“Varly was big for us,” defenseman Scott Mayfield said after the loss. “I think he’s one of the main reasons we’re here. He had another great game and it stinks to lose.”
Varlamov, who has two seasons left on the four-year deal he signed with the Islanders in July 2019, made his 12th straight start of the postseason on Friday. The 33-year-old suffered a lower-body injury in the regular-season finale, which prompted head coach Barry Trotz to start rookie Ilya Sorokin in the series-opener of the first round against the Penguins.
Despite Sorokin’s victory in Game 1, Trotz turned to Varlamov, who posted back-to-back losses after letting in a couple soft goals. Trotz then opted to ride Sorokin for the remainder of Round 1 as the Islanders advanced to play the Bruins in the second round.
After Sorokin was lit up for five goals in the series-opening loss to Boston, the net was Varlamov’s again and he never gave it up.
Varlamov finished this postseason with a 7-7 record and a .922 save percentage in 34 starts.
“I think we’ve always known what he can do and we’re confident with him behind us,” Mayfield said. “He played a hell of a game, just like I think we all knew he would and it sucks we couldn’t get it done in front of him.”
Friday night marked just the second time in franchise history that the Islanders played a Game 7 in the semifinal round. The first one came in 1975 against the Flyers. It was also the 10th Game 7 for the Islanders and the ninth played on the road.
After the season-ending loss, the Islanders are 4-6 all-time in Game 7s, including 4-5 on the road.