The New York Islanders stayed alive in Game 6, and the Tampa Bay Lightning could be shorthanded for Game 7 because NHL leading playoff scorer Nikita Kucherov left Wednesday after one shift.
New York’s Anthony Beauvillier scored at 1:08 of overtime to force the series back to Tampa Bay for a decisive game on Friday.
The Islanders rallied after the defending champion Lightning scored twice following Kucherov’s departure.
Replays showed that Kucherov was knocked to the ice by a hard cross-check from the Islanders’ Scott Mayfield. That infraction went uncalled.
Kucherov then to check Mathew Barzal and was clearly laboring afterward. After finishing his shift, he went bent over to the dressing room and didn’t return.
Here is the sequence of events:
Kucherov, who won the Hart Trophy as league MVP in 2018-19 and was the top scorer in the 2020 playoffs, had missed the entire regular season after offseason hip surgery. He returned for Game 1 of the first round and was leading the league in playoff scoring with 27 points.
“There’s no replacing Kuch,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. “He’s had an unbelievable playoffs for us. He’s so lethal out there offensively.”
But Tampa Bay did its best. Anthony Cirelli moved up to the top line and drew an assist as Brayden Point extended his goal streak to nine games. Cirelli then scored in the second period for a 2-0 lead.
Barzal, who was fined $5,000 for a cross-check in Game 5, started the Islanders’ comeback. He drew an assist on Jordan Eberle’s second-period goal and then set up Mayfield’s goal with 8:44 left in the third period.
Beauvillier scored in overtime off a giveaway from Blake Coleman.
“You’re down 2-0 in Game 6 at home,” said Barzal, who has 10 points in his last 10 games. “I don’t think it takes much to get excited. We’re obviously a resilient group and we knew we had a lot of time left on the clock still. We just stuck with it.”
The Islanders would have played their last game at Nassau Coliseum had they lost. They still might have, depending on what happens in Game 7. After the win, fans threw things on the ice while the team celebrated.
“It’s a little dangerous,” Barzal said. “But I don’t think you see that too often, so we embraced it. That’s the Islander faithful. They’re passionate, they get excited. It’s good stuff.”
The Lightning are facing an elimination game for the first time since they were swept in the first round in 2019. Lightning coach Jon Cooper had no update on Kucherov after the game.
“Guys battled,” Stamkos said. “We played short the rest of the game and gave ourselves a chance to win. It didn’t work out tonight, but it wasn’t for lack of effort.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov leaves Islanders win after one shift