Psychologically, this game hurt way worse than the 8-2 blowout. The Islanders played well, had opportunities, scored early, but couldn’t take advantage of power play opportunities and had the game slip away from them with their only two blatant mistakes of the night (and one was a blown icing call!) On top of that, Tampa Bay targeted Brock Nelson most of the game, leading to Alex Killorn’s ejection for boarding and nothing (so far) for Barclay Goodrow for crosschecking Nelson in the back of the head. I honestly was surprised that Brock not only was allowed to continue on in the game, but also that he felt at all good enough to go after the Goodrow cheap shot.
The refs were bad, the Isles played pretty well at 5v5, were able to contain Tampa in a tight 1-1 game, and then Trotz put out the team’s worst line (Andrew Ladd, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Leo Komarov) and Nikita Kucherov was able to take advantage of two traffic cones on the ice to win the game for the Lightning.
All that said, a 0-2 hole is not an impossible comeback. But the Islanders are going to have to be much more efficient with their chances to win these games.
Under two minutes into the first, noted sniper Matt Martin scored his 5th goal of the playoffs, basically chipping the puck over Andrei Vasilevskiy’s shoulder after getting a pass from behind the net from Nick Leddy.
Solid defensive play from Scott Mayfield kept the game 1-0 when he caught up enough to slow down a Barclay Goodrow breakaway attempt, and Semyon Varlamov was able to save the much weaker shot.
Then, Alex Killorn earned himself a five minute major and a game misconduct when he blindsided Brock Nelson with an extremely late hit against the boards. Killorn saw numbers the whole way and still chose to make contact, and Nelson hit his head against the glass and had to leave the game for concussion protocol.
Major penalty on Killorn on Brock Nelson. Late and from behind, potential injury on the play. Really bad hit. pic.twitter.com/S7Wnkug5E1— NHL Safety Watch (@NHLSafetyWatch) September 10, 2020
He did return in the second, but more on that later.
The Islanders unfortunately couldn’t take advantage during the five minute major, with the best chance coming from Anders Lee in tight on Vasilevskiy. Probably something deserved to go in there, but it wasn’t enough to get close given the magnitude of the opportunity and the fact that the Isles would have to play without Nelson for a while, too.
Soon after the PP expired, Ryan Pulock took a weak tripping call, sending Tampa to the power play. The Islanders killed it, but less than five minutes later, what seemed to be an unforced icing from Devon Toews led to a Victor Hedman goal to tie the game. It was a shot Varlamov probably should have had, but he was screened, and the Isles haven’t done a great job of letting their goalies just see those pucks from out high.
However, after the replay of the Toews icing, it became clear that Kevin Shattenkirk got a stick on it, which would have obviously negated the icing. And, even if you believe he didn’t touch it, like Keith Jones on the NBCSN intermission show, he was still clearly able to play the puck, which also would have negated the icing. Now Toews should have gained the red line and taken the hit if he had to because there’s no reason to risk icing the puck a foot away from the red line, but it was part of some egregious officiating in this game that benefited Tampa Bay.
At the end of the period, the Islanders and Lightning got into a mini-line brawl, and it appeared Brayden Point may have been injured on a play where he and Clutterbuck came together and Point awkwardly went into the boards.
There was no Brock Nelson early in the second period, but he returned to the Isles bench as Point left the game after taking only two shifts in the period.
The period started out strong when a ref got in the way of Adam Pelech’s pinching attempt, which led to him getting called for a weak tripping drawn by world-famous Olympic diver Nikita Kucherov. The Isles killed that penalty, too, with a good save by Varlamov on Ondrej Palat.
Matt Martin and Luke Schenn fought after Schenn basically got on the ice just to pick a fight with him (but somehow didn’t get an instigator penalty). Josh Bailey had probably the Islanders best chance of the night when the puck wouldn’t settle on him in front of Vasilevskiy and he ended up shooting it high.
The Islanders got another power play opportunity when Yanni Gourde was called for roughing on Scott Mayfield, but they once again could not convert.
On Brock’s first shift back in the game, he and Barclay Goodrow were fighting for a puck when Goodrow hit Nelson up high, breaking Nelson’s stick in the process, and then aggressively crosschecking him in the back of the head.
Goodrow catches Brock Nelson up high on his first shift back, then cross-checks him face first into the glass. No call. pic.twitter.com/XIxF8vzH2d— NHL Safety Watch (@NHLSafetyWatch) September 10, 2020
Former ref Kerry Fraser tweeted about it, saying the first hit he would call as a minor for an illegal check to the head, and the crosscheck would be a major penalty. For whatever reason though, the NHL and its refs have decided they don’t care about these kinds of plays, and Goodrow got absolutely 0 penalty minutes from this. It’s still possible this goes to NHL Player Safety for a suspension, but I’m not holding my breath.
The Islanders’ power play woes were magnified in this period, when they first went up 5 on 4 when Ryan McDonagh was called for holding on Nelson, and then up 5 on 3 for 40 seconds when Cedric Paquette was called for hooking Mathew Barzal. Trotz called timeout here, but the Islanders ran the most obvious play in the world, passing the puck around to try to set up a Ryan Pulock one timer. The 5 on 3 ended with a terrible Jordan Eberle pass that resulted in a turnover, and the rest of the following power play was just as unremarkable as the other parts of that sequence.
In the last 30 seconds of the period, Varlamov made a couple of nice saves to keep the game tied, only for Andrew Ladd and Leo Komarov to do their best traffic cone impressions in no man’s land as McDonagh passed the puck off to Kucherov who scored with 8 seconds left to win the game for the Lightning. Total backbreaker.
- This is probably the first time it’s been true during these playoffs, and it’s been a rare occurrence during his tenure here, but Trotz’s coaching decisions tonight were questionable. The decision to go with Andrew Ladd, whose last game prior to this one - Game 2 of the EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL - was March 10, six months ago. He had only played in 4 regular season games this year. On top of going with Ladd, Trotz put Leo Komarov back in, leaving out Derick Brassard, Michael Dal Colle, Ross Johnston, and even Tom Kuhnhackl, all of whom have played and contributed to the team more recently and who have shown an ability to sustain a forecheck, something that third line was sorely missing.
- And bad enough that he put Ladd and Komarov in, but their line, with JG Pageau, was terrible all night, yet somehow were trusted to close out a tie game to get to OT. Really unsurprising that the Lightning top line was able to score with those guys hemmed in their own zone. Trotz hasn’t been shy about putting Pageau, Cizikas, and Clutterbuck together for late shifts, and the Cizikas line was rested. Just doesn’t make any sense at all!
- Devon Toews had a pretty bad game tonight, and I’ve said it before but he hasn’t impressed much all playoffs. Great player when he’s on his game, but not gaining the red line and instead icing the puck and his decisions to pass up multiple solid shooting attempts will define this game for him. I jokingly tweeted that every Toews mistake saves the Isles $100k on the salary cap, but he hasn’t done himself a lot of favors with his playoff performance in a contract year.
- The good decision Trotz made this game was putting in Varlamov, who still looks shaky to me, but overall had a solid game where he made the saves he needed to, if nothing completely spectacular. Not sure that you get a very different performance out of Thomas Greiss though, either.
- Jordan Eberle and Anthony Beauvillier need to get more involved offensively. It’s hard to rag on Beau given his great play early in the playoffs, but he needs to get back on the score sheet.
- Both Killorn and Goodrow should be suspended, Killorn probably for a game and Goodrow for 2-3, but my guess is Killorn will probably just get the game and Goodrow will get nothing (maybe a fine).
Next, the Isles will have “home ice” against Tampa for Game 3 on Friday at 8pm on USA.