The Islanders had every reason and opportunity in the world to win Game 4 of their playoff series against the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night. Then they came out and laid an egg the size of the Coney Island Parachute Jump.
Fifteen or so hours later, I'm still mad about the loss on a lot of levels. For one, the Islanders wasted the best performance of the series by Thomas Greiss, who bailed them out through two periods of energy-free play. Two, they got a game-tying goal from John Tavares, who is making a name for himself as a big time playoff performer while nine of his fellow forwards remain, for the most part, stuck in neutral. Those two combined to give the Islanders a chance to take the third period and a 3-1 series lead but, as they have so often this season, they failed to meet the challenge.
Also, as Dom correctly and concisely pointed out in his recap, the way the Islanders played Game 4 effectively neutralized their own raucous home crowd that had been the subject of so much praise in Game 3. A huge playoff game came and went like a forgotten regular season game and instead of the Islanders reaching up and asserting themselves to the hockey world at large, the biggest storylines about this series remain the Panthers inevitable and uplifting ascendance, ludicrous rug logo outrage and, now, a couple of drunken mouthbreathing assholes getting beer on an Islanders legend.
(I'm also mad because Prince has died, but I can't rightfully pin that on the Islanders. Yet.)
So the teams go into Friday's Game 5 at Sunrise tied at two games apiece and there's another reason to be mad, courtesy of indispensable Islanders statistician Eric Hornick. According to Hornick's NYI Skinny, the Islanders haven't won Game 5 in a playoff series since Prince's Sign o' The Times album was released in 1987.
The Isles have lost 11 straight Game 5s since defeating Philadelphia in game 5 of the 1987 Division Finals. That was so long ago that it was 3 1/2 years before Jaromir Jagr made his NHL debut.
12-Apr-88 Vs New Jersey DSF 1988 2 4 L 13-Apr-90 @ New York DSF 1990 5 6 L 26-Apr-93 @ Washington DSF 1993 4 6 L 10-May-93 @ Pittsburgh DF 1993 3 6 L 24-May-93 @ Montreal CF 1993 2 5 L 26-Apr-02 @ Toronto CQF 2002 3 6 L 17-Apr-03 @ Ottawa CQF 2003 1 4 L 16-Apr-04 @ Tampa Bay CQF 2004 2 3 L 20-Apr-07 @ Buffalo CQF 2007 3 4 L 09-May-13 @ Pittsburgh CQF 2013 0 4 L 23-Apr-15 @ Washington 1st 2015 1 5 L
The Islanders have some serious history to reverse if they plan on coming back to Brooklyn on Sunday with a chance to win the series.
Of the 11 previous Game 5s, the one that came closest to turning in the Islanders' favor was the series-ending loss to Tampa Bay in 2004. The Islanders and Lightning went into overtime tied at two in a game Rick DiPietro apparently doesn't remember happening. Turns out, Martin St. Louis happened:
After Thomas Hickey's Game 3 overtime goal on Sunday night, the Islanders did a lot of talking about the Panthers being desperate and needing to match their energy and get a better start to take the next step and put the pressure on Florida and blahblahblah. The Panthers did outplay the Islanders in Game 4, but going into the third period tied should have been the Islanders' cue that they could still back up that talk and win a crucial game when they needed to. Sadly, it was not.
The series won't end in Game 5 no matter who wins it. But this Islanders squad is running out of chances to prove themselves.