These games are going to give me some sort of digestive disorder. The Islanders were able to prevail in this game after jumping out to a 4-0 lead, but the Lightning gave them a worthy and unsurprising scare. Fantastic result against a team that only had two regulation losses coming into their twentieth game.
The Islanders, much like myself, were in the mood to start early tonight. Within the first minute,
the Ladd-Cizikas-Ho-Sang line got the puck deep in the Lightning zone and kept it there. John Tavares replaced Casey Cizikas on a change (actually, the Lee-Tavares-Bailey line got it deep, and it was the wingers who came on for a change and made the play with Tavares, sorry y’all), and he took Josh Ho-Sang’s pass and fed Andrew Ladd in the slot. Always nice to score on the first shot of the game.
They continued to play well after the goal, limiting the Tampa’s chances through the first ten minutes. When it seemed like they were finally waking up, Tavares and Anders Lee converted on a two-on-one - this after Brock Nelson and Jason Chimera went in on a two-on-none and Nelson didn’t score on his initial shot nor rebound.
Thomas Greiss was extremely sharp on the Lightning’s first power play, as well as throughout the end of the first with Tampa getting into their groove. New York looked kinda gross after the Lee goal, but against the best team in the league that’s also down two, that’s to be expected.
Tampa Bay kept pouring on the pressure, but the Islanders were able to create a few chances for themselves - Ho-Sang’s patience at the blue line led to a de Haan chance off the rush that was followed up by Cizikas, but the Bolts’ goalie was on top of it.
Not long after, Nelson scored a freaky goal from just above the goal line, roofing it over Andrei Vasilevskiy’s opposite shoulder. That would be the extent of the scoring that period; Greiss had the net locked down.
The Islanders opened the third on the back half of a power play, and they made the seconds count. Lee did the thing that Jon Cooper remarked he did extraordinarily well, which is play down low. He took a net-front pass and twisted before sending a backhand past Vasilevskiy.
The Lightning finally got past Greiss when Yanni Gourde found himself all alone down low, and added another on the very next shift, courtesy of Ondrej Palat. Greiss looked pretty shaky in the moments after the second goal, not exuding the confidence he was entering this period. Making the situation a bit more frightening, Tampa Bay only pushed harder.
Things seemed to calm a bit, when a failed clear off an Islanders’ zone face-off led to another goal for Gourde, putting the Bolts within one with over three minutes remaining. Those remaining three minutes were filled with opportunities for the Lightning that somehow didn’t beat Greiss, and Tavares’s empty-netter allowed my blood pressure to go down.
Thoughts & Feelings
That was another crazy game - what looked like it miiiight be an easy game quickly became a nail-biter. Though, I’ll be honest, I knew better than to think the Islanders had this wrapped up at 4-0 against the Lightning.
Barzal didn’t look as dominant as he has recently, but the top line seemed to break out of its funk. The Ladd-Cizikas-Ho-Sang line looked pretty effective.
They also held Tampa’s lethal top line without a point. Fantabulous.
Hope this game didn’t whip the turds out of you too much, because they’re back at it again tomorrow evening in Carolina, 5:00 p.m. Less than 24 hours between the start of games for the blue and orange. More importantly, I don’t get how the Isles and ‘Canes ended up with such a schedule quirk, with both teams having a game separate what would have been a home-and-home.