New York Islanders 5, Tampa Bay Lightning 3 (Lightning lead series 2-1)

It was not technically a must-win game, but this was a game the New York Islanders really needed. Not only because they entered the game facing a 2-0 series deficit, but because the Lightning were playing without three top forwards (Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, and Alex Killorn). Losing this game would have been crushing and probably slammed the door shut on their season. But thanks to Brock Nelson’s late third period goal to break a tie game the Islanders were able to pick up a 5-3 win to get a huge win in the Eastern Conference Final.

1. Brock Nelson, New York Islanders. In Game 2 he was briefly knocked out of the game on a late hit from Alex Killorn, only to return and take a cross-check to the back of the head on his first shift. It was a tough game. He got some revenge on Friday night by scoring the game-winning goal late in the third period. He finished the game with a pair of points (goal, assist) and now has 17 points this postseason.

2. Semyon Varlamov, New York Islanders. Yeah, he gave up three goals, including two in the third period to surrender what was at the time a 3-1 Islanders lead. But I have a hard time faulting him on the third goal (a deflection from Tyler Johnson) and he really did play a strong game, stopping 34 out of 37 shots to keep the Islanders in the game. There were stretches where Tampa Bay tilted the ice in its favor but Varlamov was able to hold them off. He was the best goalie on the ice tonight.

3. Adam Pelech, New York Islanders. Pelech is one of the Islanders’ most important players, and his return to the lineup has been a game-changer in the postseason. He had a great game on Friday, scoring his first goal of the playoffs, finishing as a plus-4, blocking three shots, and playing close to 20 minutes of ice-time. He may not be a household name in the league, but his impact on the Islanders’ success is undeniable.

Nelson’s game-winning goal.

The prettiest goal of the night was probably Mikhail Sergachev‘s first period goal.

Pelech’s first goal of the playoffs.

Game 4: Vegas Golden Knights vs. Dallas Stars, 8 p.m. ET, NBC, Livestream (Stars lead series 2-1)

• Stanley Cup Playoffs Conference Final schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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