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Lightning 6, Islanders 2: Stretches of disastrous play drop Isles

A ghastly first period and end of the second period - likely the result of a back-to-back - twice put the Islanders in a hole they only escaped once.

NHL: New York Islanders at Tampa Bay Lightning
A wallop indicative of most of the game.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Now, you might think that playing the league’s best team after having played 65+ minutes the previous night, and having to travel in between, would make for a pretty terrible start. And you’d be right!

[Game Sum | Event Sum | Corsica | Natural Stat Trick | HockeyViz]

First Period

Seeming to signal the tone of the opening frame, the Lightning went up 1-0 less than one minute into the game thanks to Brayden Point, and proceeded to pummel the Islanders like a rag doll.

They didn’t record a shot on goal until after the midway point. They rarely got the puck into the Tampa Bay zone. They couldn’t complete a pass to save their lives. And then Andrej Sustr sent a floater through four-to-six bodies, untouched, past Thomas Greiss. And to be honest, they could’ve been down a couple more. In other words, the Lightning rendered the Isles a big and illegal shipment of bones through the first twenty minutes.

To wit:

Second Period

If the first period was darkness, the second period had to be light - for fifteen minutes, anyway - and Mathew Barzal was the divine, guiding beacon that, along with a little help from score effects, steered the Islanders in the correct direction... if only for a little while. Then it went dark, again.

Jordan Eberle was tripped in an early breakaway-ish scenario and New York jumped on the power play. The first unit jammed, unsuccessfully, for the first minute and a half, but it wasn’t until a change that Barzal zipped around Anton Stralman and flicked a deadly backhand over Vasilevskiy. Only a few minutes later, he entered the zone similarly, and this time dished to Eberle cross-ice for the one-timed seed.

All this being said, it only takes a chance or two to flip all the nice work on its head, and the Bolts took advantage of their chances. Yanni Gourde stepped away from the brutal last five minutes of the period with two goals, and Vladimir Namestnikov topped it off with a power play goal to put the game out of reach, 5-2.

Third Period

New York didn’t respond to their second-period deficit the way they had to the first-period deficit. Mind you, they weren’t lifeless - but, the exhaustion set in by the third period as it so often does on the second half of a back-to-back. Down by three, they would have, theoretically, needed a goal in the first five minutes of the third if they were to stand a chance. That didn’t happen.

Instead, Chris Kunitz, gunning for his fifth Stanley Cup this season in Tampa, poked a puck out of his own zone with some assistance from the linesman’s skate and sizzled it past Greiss, who appeared to have checked out already. After that goal, the rest of the Islanders joined him, letting the time tick to 0.0.

Thoughts & Feelings

This game was a schedule loss, so we can’t get too concerned about this thrashing at the hands of, once again, the NHL’s best team. However, that first period was fugly. Three shot attempts in twenty minutes is what you might expect if a pee-wee team played the late-00s Red Wings. That shouldn’t happen, even in the second half of a back-to-back.

Greiss had another poor outing, and his save percentage has dipped below .900 after this game. Not sure if it’s time to be concerned just yet, but we’re getting there. Josh Ho-Sang had a pretty rough go of things, as well.

I never expected Barzal to be as downright spectacular as he is, ever. Seriously - he’s better and more dynamic than I ever imagined he would be, and in a quicker timeframe than I thought possible. Absolutely insane that the Bruins passed on him three times in a row.

I really hope Johnny Boychuk didn’t hurt himself blocking a power play shot while down 6-2, because that would be peak hockey player and not in a good way.

Up Next

The Isles link up with the rival Penguins for the first time this season Thursday night in Pittsburgh. The defending champs aren’t as fear-inducing as they’ve been in the recent past, but they still have their Big 3.