And to think, it all started so wel— er, I mean, it at least started okay. It started okay. For a minute or so.
The first 90 seconds of the Islanders’ rematch with their playoff conquerors looked like nothing that would become a disastrous 6-1 blowout loss filled with a craptastic mix of poor coverage, poor backchecking and ridiculous unlucky bounces.
Atmosphere was good (you know, for a Tuesday night at Barclays Center), the Lightning were coming in angry but struggling, both teams were exchanging rushes, and 1:42 into the game Calvin de Haan drilled Jonathan Drouin with a hit near the same spot Thomas Hickey caught him last spring. Like, this game is ON!
Except...there was no call coming on the play, as the puck continued up ice, but Ryan Callahan wouldn’t let de Haan get away with that without a fight.
So play stopped, fight ritual commenced, refs congregated afterward to reflect on things and decide...de Haan would get five minutes for interference and five for fighting while Callahan got two for instigating, five for fighting and a meaningless 10-minute misconduct?
There is an argument for the interference call, as de Haan continued through on his hit after poking the 50/50 puck, but that’s a stretch. The result was a three-minute major-style Lightning power play to come after Callahan’s minor penalty expired.
Except. Wheels due to spin off because...30 seconds into that Ryan Strome got a puck-over-the-glass call, resulting in a 4-on-3 Lightning power play.
With that advantage, the Lightning had their way with the Isles’ 3-man PK, despite painful shot blocks by Johnny Boychuk, Thomas Hickey and Casey Cizikas. They eventually converted, Steven Stamkos faking a shot to set up Nikita Kucherov for a one-timer with a wide open net as Thomas Greiss was drawn out.
The Lightning scored again on the other portion of the power play, Dennis Seidenberg hilariously following Travis Hamonic into the corner to take on one forward and leaving men free. That one was overturned after an alert offside challenge by the Isles — one of those ridiculous inch-offside calls we are not subjected to thanks to HD video review, though this one felt like proper karma.
But the Isles wasted that pardon by the hockey gods and promptly gave up a second power play goal that counted, again by Kucherov on a nifty shot through traffic and just inside the post.
Then Steven Stamkos made it 3-0 on a great redirection at even strength as the Lightning continued to swarm the Isles on the rush. At this point, it already felt like game over.
Greiss was pulled after three goals on 11 shots — but eight pretty good saves and gobs of tough penalty kill work — though Jaroslav Halak would hardly fare better.
Halak is getting about 5 practices' worth of work here.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) November 2, 2016
At least two of the three goals against Halak in the second period were due to circus luck.
Johnny Boychuk’s power play blast took a bad carom as it came out toward de Haan to perfectly set up J.T. Brown on a breakaway where he deked Halak out of his agent’s Twitter handle. (Halak later stopped Brown on a second breakaway try.)
More comically -- and perfectly, really — Valtteri Filppula was credited with a goal after a simple rebound bounced up in the air, off Halak’s glove, OFF NICK LEDDY’S HELMET, off Halak again, then some how down between his legs and across the goal line, carrying remnant momentum only a physicist could explain.
But Halak worked his tail off as the Isles disappeared and the turnover machine carried on. He faced 25 shots in all, 16 of those in the second period and just six in the third.
Travis Hamonic and Brian Boyle fought at some point. Seidenberg broke Ben Bishop’s shutout — and hey, offense from the defense! — on another hard point slapper with 30 seconds left in the second period.
They played a third period, too, because rules are rules.
The Isles started the final period in full energy conservation mode, not wanting to expend any further effort or injury in a hopeless cause. A variety pack of lazy turnovers predictably accompanied that. Even the power plays were lifeless, save for when the players who really, really like to score were on.
The Lightning eventually cashed in their winnings and made Bishop do the rest of the work, which he ably did while stopping several good chances in garbage time.
Last game like this was 2/18/13, 7-0 home loss to Flyers that threatened to derail shortened season. #Isles regrouped then. Will they now?— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) November 2, 2016
The Islanders host the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, part of their eleventy billion home games in a row. The Oilers and Canucks follow before it’s back on the road, finally, to tour the Florida teams next week.