Brayden Point did not play for the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 2-1 double-overtime loss to the New York Islanders in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Tuesday.
“He’s been so good for us in these playoffs,” Tampa Bay forward Alex Killorn said of the center. “I think it’s an opportunity for other guys to step up, and [it] changes our power-play look a little bit. For him, he’s a huge part of our team. He drives our team in a lot of senses, the way we play, the energy we play with. But there’s many capable bodies in this room. We’ve been through it before. It’s a next-man-up attitude, and tonight I thought we did a good job and it just didn’t bounce our way.”
Jordan Eberle scored for New York 12:30 into the second overtime to set up Game 6 of the best-of-7 series on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS). A Tampa Bay win would put it into the Stanley Cup Final against the Dallas Stars.
“It’s too hard to tell right now (if Point can play),” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said after the loss. “It’s a tough question to answer right now. … So I’m going to wait.”
Point had a goal and an assist in a 4-1 win in Game 4 on Sunday, but he did not play after being hit by Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech with 9:51 remaining in the third period. Point, who is tied for the NHL postseason scoring lead, missed Game 3 on Friday because he was unfit to play after possibly being injured in Game 2.
Forward Carter Verhaeghe was in the Tampa Bay lineup in Game 5, and Anthony Cirelli took Point’s place on a line with Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat.
“I was just trying to get in the right spots for them, trying to get to the puck and stick to my game,” Cirelli said. “Obviously, [Point] is a huge part of our team, and being able to play with those two guys, it’s easy to just go in there and get them the puck and stick to my game.”
The line combined for 11 shots on goal (Cirelli had six), and Tampa Bay outshot New York 37-24.
“We had some chances, and going into Game 6 we’ve just got to bear down and try to finish a couple of these,” Cirelli said.
Point has scored 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists) in 16 games to share the postseason lead with linemate Kucherov (six goals, 19 assists in 18 games) and Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche (nine goals, 16 assists in 15 games).
Point has scored seven points (three goals, four assists) in three games in the conference final.
He scored five points (two goals, three assists) in an 8-2 Game 1 win on Sept. 7 but left in the second period of a 2-1 Game 2 win on Sept. 9. He may have been injured when he fell awkwardly into the left-wing boards in the offensive zone and lost his helmet with seven seconds remaining in the first period. He was late returning to the bench at the start of the second period and played two shifts in the opening 5:23 before going back to the locker room.