The Tampa Bay Lightning led for less than seven minutes combined in Games 3 and 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the New York Islanders. But a "quality, not quantity" approach to hockey has the Lightning heading home with a chance to close the series out Sunday afternoon.
Jason Garrison scored 1:34 into overtime Friday night as the Lightning beat the Islanders 2-1 at Barclays Center to take a three games to one series lead.
Tampa Bay the reigning Eastern Conference champions, can move on to the Eastern Conference Final by winning Game 5, which is scheduled for Sunday afternoon at Amalie Arena in Tampa. The Lightning are on the verge of advancing despite leading for just 66 minutes and 21 seconds in the first four games.
"That experience last year, going to the final, really helped this group," Lightning right winger Ryan Callahan said. "We just continue to go out there and work and we know we'll get those opportunities eventually with the amount of skill we have. Hopefully one of them goes in. Tonight's no different."
Games 3 and 4 weren't that much different for either team.
Garrison's goal gave the Lightning its only lead of Friday night. Tampa Bay trailed for more than 47 minutes before right winger Nikita Kucherov tied the game 7:49 into the third.
In Game 3 on Tuesday, the Lightning led for just 6:40 but forced overtime on a last-minute third period goal by Kucherov. Center Brian Boyle then gave Tampa Bay a 5-4 win by scoring 2:48 into overtime.
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PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 22: Nikita Kucherov #86 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates after scoring a goal against Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 22, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 16: Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 of the Tampa Bay Lightning gives up a goal to Phil Kessel #81 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Consol Energy Center on May 16, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 13: Ondrej Palat #18 of the Tampa Bay Lightning scores a goal against Matt Murray #30 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period in Game One of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 13, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 15: David Backes #42 of the St. Louis Blues (R) celebrates with Jaden Schwartz #17 after scoring a first period goal against Martin Jones #31 of the San Jose Sharks (not pictured) in Game One of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 15, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 25: Troy Brouwer #36 of the St. Louis Blues celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game Seven of the Western Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Scottrade Center on April 25, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri. The blues beat the Blackhawks 3-2 to win the series. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/ Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - APRIL 27: Ben Bishop #30 of the Tampa Bay Lightning makes a save as Nikolay Kulemin #86 of the New York Islanders crashes into Jason Garrison #5 during the first period in Game One of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on April 27, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 02: Braden Holtby #70 of the Washington Capitals reacts after being scored on by Tom Kuhnhackl #34 of the Pittsburgh Penguins (not pictured) in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 2, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 20: Roberto Luongo #1 of the Florida Panthers is pushed aside as players from the Panthers and the New York Islanders converge in the crease during the second period in Game Four of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Barclays Center on April 20, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
ST. PAUL, MN - APRIL 20: Jason Spezza #90 of the Dallas Stars scores a goal against Jason Pominville #29 and goalie Devan Dubnyk #40 of the Minnesota Wild in Game Four of the Western Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 20, 2016 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 27: Clayton Stoner #3 of the Anaheim Ducks and Viktor Arvidsson #38 of the Nashville Predators leap to avoid a collision during the second period of Game Seven of the Western Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Honda Center on April 27, 2016 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - APRIL 19: Niklas Kronwall #55 of the Detroit Red Wings battles for the puck with Jonathan Drouin #27 of the Tampa Bay Lightning during the third period of Game Four of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Joe Louis Arena on April 19, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. Tampa Bay won the game 3-2. Tampa Bay leads the series 3-1. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 23: Sami Vatanen #45 of the Anaheim Ducks reacts after scoring on a breakaway against goaltender Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators in the third period of Game Five of the Western Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Honda Center on April 23, 2016 in Anaheim, California. Vatanen's goal was the eventual game-winning goal. The Ducks defeated the Predators 5-2. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 20: Andrew MacDonald #47 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrates after scoring against the Washington Capitals during the second period in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center on April 20, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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"There's no real panic button anymore," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "You don't know whether it's the first period or the third period on our bench. They're just positive about the job they have ahead of them until the last buzzer. It's been a lot of fun being around this group."
The Islanders, meanwhile, are on the verge of suffering the same fate they handed to the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. New York won that series in six games despite leading the Panthers for just 45 minutes and 54 seconds -- and won two overtime games in which it didn't lead until scoring the game-winning goal.
"The last two games have been good hockey games -- that's how close these two teams are, it's one shot away from taking the (series) lead or not," Islanders head coach Jack Capuano said. "You can't ask our guys for too much more."
But if their season ends in this series, the Islanders will likely lament their inability to generate more offense Friday. Kyle Okposo scored a power play goal 4:20 into the first and nearly doubled the lead with 10:49 left, when Ryan Strome's shot from in front of the net disappeared beneath squatting Lightning goalie Ben Bishop (27 saves). The call of no goal stood because replays couldn't show if the puck ever crossed the line.
The Islanders ended up outshooting the Lightning 16-6 in the first but got just one shot during a four-minute power play following a pair of roughing penalties on Callahan.
"You've got to tip your hat to 'Bish,' because he saved us in the first," Cooper said. "That could have kind of changed the tide of the game, especially when we didn't have too much going."
The Lightning outshot the Islanders 17-11 over the next two periods and finally produced the equalizer on a broken play behind the New York net. Tampa Bay center Tyler Johnson picked up a puck lost by Nick Leddy and passed to Kucherov, whose shot fluttered over the right arm of goalie Thomas Greiss (20 saves).
"When we got that one, you could tell on our bench we had a good feeling of what could happen," Cooper said. "And it happened."
Garrison's game-winner capped a chaotic sequence that included Islanders defenseman Calvin De Haan losing his stick. New York could not clear the puck, which eventually found its way to Garrison in front of the Stanley Cup Playoffs logo. De Haan eventually picked up a stick but accidentally screened goalie Thomas Greiss (20 saves) as Garrison's slap shot sailed into the net.
"We had chances to get the puck out on the wall, we didn't get it out," Capuano said. "And then after that, we had pretty good D-zone coverage. You give that shot up all day long. But it had eyes."