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Lightning 4, Islanders 1: Two quick Tampa goals put Isles down 3-1 in Conference Final

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Brock Nelson opened up the scoring in the second, but Tampa struck back with quick goals by Blake Coleman and Ondrej Palat and the Islanders were never able to recover.

Tampa Bay Lightning v New York Islanders - Game Four
The lonely end of the rink.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

This one was pretty rough. Tampa Bay dominated early on, but the Isles, playing hard to tie the series, were strong for the rest of the game. Unfortunately, the power play remained inert and the Isles couldn’t break Vasilevskiy enough to make up for Tampa’s ability to pounce on every Islanders mistake.

Brock Nelson opened the scoring, but the team fell asleep for 27 seconds after, and suddenly found themselves down 2-1 in the game. Just the way it seems to go this series. It wasn’t helped by the fact that Casey Cizikas has now left the bubble due to injury, meaning that the Islanders will now have to climb out of a 3-1 series hole without their fourth line center and key penalty killer.

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First Period

This one was not great from the Islanders, who have had slow starts in every game this series. In one of the good opportunities the Isles had, Mat Barzal took a Scott Mayfield shot to the chest, winding him (and it possibly hurt him, given that he looked just a little bit slow the rest of the game, though he was pretty good overall.)

Adam Pelech was sent off for tripping Brayden Point, and the Isles killed that penalty.

A terrible line change resulted in Ondrej Palat getting a shot in alone, but Semyon Varlamov made the save.

At the end of the period, Matt Martin shot the puck just after the buzzer, pretty intentionally trying to rile up the Lightning (and get his own team engaged.) Cal Clutterbuck and Yanni Gourde both got two minute penalties for roughing, and somewhat unbelievably, Martin got two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct. Kinda crazy that crosschecking the back of someone’s head wasn’t a penalty at all, but shooting the puck a little late is. Guess that’s the playoffs!

Second Period

The Isles killed the penalty, and the Barzal line had some good zone time, but a Devon Toews turnover led to some dangerous opportunities for Tampa Bay.

The Isles later earned a power play of their own when Ryan McDonagh went to the box for tripping, but that power play went the way of basically all the other PPs this series - which is poorly.

Brock Nelson opened up the scoring for the Islanders, when he danced around Tampa’s skaters with the puck and got enough time and space to let off one of his wrist shots. Great goal and it seemed like maybe the Isles would be rewarded for a strong period.

Except... no. Following Nelson’s goal, the whole team fell asleep, as a long aerial pass from Yanni Gourde caught Toews flatfooted, leading to Blake Coleman beating him out on a breakaway all alone on Varlamov. Varly could’ve done more to challenge too, as Coleman pretty easily put the puck past him. Then 12 seconds later, Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov were able to skate into the Isles zone unchallenged, pass the puck around, and a solid pass from Kucherov found the trailer Palat who scored. So as quickly as the Islanders took the lead, it was gone, as the Lightning took a 2-1 lead.

Kevin Shattenkirk took a delay of game penalty, and Toews hit the post, an unfortunate break that could’ve changed the tide of the game. Instead, Mat Barzal got called for a pretty blatant stick hold, canceling out the last 17 seconds of the power play.

Varlamov had to make a good save on the following Tampa PP, but then the Isles had some good opportunities after the kill with Ryan Pulock and Nelson getting some good looks. Unfortunately, the two Tampa goals within 12 seconds had the Isles behind in the game.

Third Period

It wouldn’t get much better, as Jordan Eberle’s best play of the series came as he stopped a puck from going in the net after it beat Varlamov. Then, Point was able to get a puck past Varlamov to make it 3-1, and despite some pushing from the Isles, they couldn’t break through Vasilevskiy.

With under 10 minutes left, Palat took a penalty for tripping Nelson, but the Isles once again couldn’t score, and then Pat Maroon made it 4-1 after the Isles pulled Varlamov for the extra skater, and Tampa took a commanding 3-1 series lead.

Quick Thoughts

  • Well, down 3-1 against these guys without Casey Cizikas seems like a death sentence. But, crazier things can happen. Just not sure the Isles have enough gas left in the tank to make them happen. Either way, it’s been a very fun run with an overall very likable Islanders team.
  • The power play has been a huge difference maker in this series. We’ve known for a while that it’s the Isles’ weakness, but it’s been brutal this series. Been a lot of opportunities to take advantage, and we’ve struggled to enter the zone even most of the time. I’m not so sure that acquiring a sniper helps with that. There just has to be a lot more creativity in the game plan.

Up Next

Next, the Islanders will fight for their season in Game 5 on Tuesday at 8pm on NBCSN. Hoping for a better result! They do say the fourth win is the hardest...