The Islanders came into Game 4 in their playoff series against the Tampa Bay Lightning ready to play. They blitzed them in the first period, kept them under wraps in the second and pressured them in the third. They overcame multiple bizarre delays, a deflating tying goal and a blown penalty but played well enough to win.
And for the second home game in a row, the Islanders lost in overtime. Welcome to the NHL playoffs.
Changes going into the game included Ryan Pulock getting back in after missing five games with an upper body injury and Ryan Strome finally coming out of the press box but in place of first round overtime hero Alan Quine. Shane Prince moved up to the first line with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo and didn't look out of place.
The Islanders once again started fast, outshooting the Lightning 16-6 for the first period. On an early powerplay thanks to a roughing call on Mike Blunden, Kyle Okposo scored his first goal since Game 1 in the first round. Frans Nielsen hit Nikolay Kulemin with a light pass and Kulemin wasted no time in feeding Okposo in the slot for a good shot right into the corner behind Ben Bishop.
The Islanders continued to press and not give the Lightning a lot of open scoring chances. Bishop was excellent, stopping shots from all over.
Late in the period, Ryan Callahan was given a double minor for roughing (and face-washing) Thomas Hickey, setting up the Islanders for a golden two-goal lead opportunity. Sadly, the resulting powerplay was flaccid and indecisive, and the period ended 1-0. Shockingly, this moment would come back to bite them later.
Second Period: No goals, but goalie drama
A tripping penalty was called on Casey Cizikas and, after the whistle, Thomas Greiss went to the bench for some repairs because a blade had fallen off while he was standing in the crease. No big deal, right?
Wrong. Minutes went by with equipment manager Scott Boggs working on Greiss's skates. Soon, Greiss and Boggs skated off to the locker room and in came Jean-Francois Berube for his first NHL playoff action - with no warm-up and needing to kill a penalty to the defending Eastern Conference champs.
But the kid did what he needed to, making two saves in an aggressive and well-executed penalty kill by the Islanders.
At the next whistle, Greiss returned from the room to a standing ovation and Berube returned to the bench for a good laugh with Travis Hamonic.
The Islanders played a mostly safe, controlled period and neither team had many scoring chances. But as the period wound down, the Islanders got sloppy and gave the Lightning two powerplays - one on a Johnny Boychuk slash and one on a Brock Nelson trip. They killed them both off - the latter with a timely pokecheck by Greiss - and survived to preserve their one goal lead.
Calvin de Haan had one of the best scoring chances of the period while short-handed, but lost control of the puck before he could take advantage of Bishop's open five hole.
Third Period: Good not good enough
After an extended delay to fix some boards that were damaged by a too close Zamboni fly-by, the Islanders started conservatively, but gradually took over. They had good zone time and a few quality looks and weren't at all sitting back like you and I feared they would.
Then, deflation: After a battle behind the net, Tyler Johnson came away with the puck and fed red hot Nikita Kucherov for yet another game-tying goal. His quick shot on Greiss' short side gave Kucherov his eighth goal in nine playoff games this year. It's true that Strome let Johnson go to set up the score, but it was an uncharacteristically bad goal for Greiss, who failed to cover the post in time.
The Islanders pressed again and continued to control play in the Lightning end, but Bishop was wherever he was needed. The fourth line in particular was buzzing, prompting Pierre McGuire to say he'd play that trio every second shift. So, see: it's not just Jack Capuano.
The Islanders looked to get a break with about four minutes to go when the shaft of Jason Garrison's stick hit Okposo in the nose. The refs blew the whistle and... nothing. No call. Center ice face off. The Islanders bench was confused and lived, but play resumed.
On the NBCSN intermission show, Anson Carter and Jeremy Roenick both felt it was a penalty, with Roenick remarking that "18,000 people saw it, and four didn't." Despite that generous overestimation of Barclays Center's capacity (or a serious underestimation of the amount of people watching at home), Roenick put the finger squarely on the refs for blowing the call.
Again, the Islanders had chances. With a few ticks left, Kulemin had a few feet of space in front of Bishop, but Casey Cizikas' pass was just a little too far behind Kulemin's skates and a shot never materialized.
And it's over...time
For the fourth time in five home playoff games, and second time in two games of this series, the Islanders and their opponents would go to overtime. But this one wouldn't last nearly as long as the others.
Right from the jump, the Lightning controlled play in the Islanders' zone and within a minute, everything fell apart. Unable to clear the zone for what felt like forever, de Haan's stick broke and Okposo loaned him his. Valtteri Filppula tossed off Johnny Boychuk to create some space and fed Jason Garrison on the other side of the zone. As Garrison wound up from the point, de Haan went down on one knee, screened Greiss pretty thoroughly, and Garrison's shot sailed into the net on the far side.
Yes, the guy whose non-penalty could have put the Islanders on the powerplay with four minutes to go scored the game-winner. Make of that what you will.
So the Islanders come home for two games, outplay the Lightning for a good portion of them, yet go back to Tampa for Game 5 down 3-1 thanks to two overtime losses. I won't bother trying to encourage anyone with optimism because I know this fanbase better.
But now the Islanders plan is to get a win on Sunday and come back to Brooklyn hoping some home cooking goes their way for a change.
Cooper: "Extremely fortunate to come out of (Brooklyn) with 2 wins." #TBLightning— Bryan Burns (@BBurnsNHL) May 7, 2016
Cooper: "It's not over yet. We have to get one more."— Ted Starkey (@TedStarkey) May 7, 2016
Capuano: "I can't ask for a better effort from our guys over the last 6 periods."— Bryan Burns (@BBurnsNHL) May 7, 2016
*phone catches fire in pocket*— Mike B ️ (@nightflyblog) May 7, 2016
What the -
*checks Isles twitter*