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Lightning 8, Islanders 2: Well, it was only Game 1

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There’s still a lot of hockey left in this series. But tonight was... uh, not great.

New York Islanders v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game One
That about sums it up.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Oof.

Okay, so, series aren’t won in Game 1, even if the Game 1 winner historically wins the series more frequently than it loses. And a loss like that might be something that could motivate a team to come out angry next time around. I mean, allowing not one, but two guys on the other team to have five-point nights when your hallmark is team defense can’t sit well. I’d be pissed off and motivated to show that’s not me—that’s not us.

But the Islanders are facing a whole new beast in the Lightning and it’s going to take a lot of effort to get past them, if tonight was any indication. That being said, given the differences in travel schedules and rest between these two teams, I wouldn’t guarantee tonight will be an indication of the series going forward. We’ll see what Game 2 holds.

[Game Sum | Event Sum | NHL Gamecenter | Natural Stat Trick | HockeyViz]

First Period: Tampa’s Not Too Rusty

The Lightning got on the board first at the 1:14 mark. Brayden Point changed speeds on Ryan Pulock and had him falling backward as he deked past him. Then, Point decimated his next victim, Thomas Greiss, deking around him and depositing the puck in the net.

The Islanders got a power play, though, and tied the game right back up. Barry Trotz went with the second unit to start and they couldn’t get anything set up, but then the top unit came out and Mathew Barzal quarterbacked a successful power play.

After holding on to the puck, he took a shot to force a rebound from the wing. Anders Lee was stopped on the initial rebound try, but the puck squirted back out and Jordan Eberle, who had been on the door step toward the end of the Flyers series, stretched out to grab the puck and shove it through Andrei Vasilevskiy’s five-hole.

Andy Greene ended up in the penalty box for holding the stick and nearly killed off the man advantage—and Brock Nelson had a shorthanded breakaway that would’ve made it 2-1 Islanders that was denied by Vasilevskiy—but Tampa Bay’s quick puck movement had the penalty killers out of position long enough for Victor Hedman to line up a screen on Greiss and beat him cold from the point.

Two and a half minutes later the Lightning were flying and had the Islanders on their heels. Tampa’s quick passes left New York scrambling a bit and Ryan McDonagh was able to cruise in from the point and wind up a slap shot through a screen that beat Greiss short side. That was the end of Greiss’ night and Semyon Varlamov entered.

Greiss got the start after he made 16 saves to shut out the Flyers in Game 7 Saturday night, but he conceded 3 goals on 9 shots in the first ten-plus minutes tonight.

The Islanders started to slow things down a bit after the goalie change, and Nelson had two more chances off odd-man rushes that wouldn’t go, but the Isles went into the first intermission down 3-1 and 1-for-3 on the power play.

Not a terrible period, process-wise. But the goals are what count at the end of the day.

Also, a tense moment in which Blake Coleman gave Casey Cizikas a reverse hit with a dash of elbow and he didn’t take another shift in the first. He returned for the second, though.

Second Period: An Unraveling, of Sorts

The Islanders came out a little stronger in the second period but weren’t able to score and then the game got away from them a bit. The Islanders went in on an odd-man rush, increased in man power by the pinch of Andy Greene, and Barzal sent a pass from behind the net all the way back to no one. It sent the Lightning’s third line back the other way and the puck got behind Varlamov. Initially, the referee waved it off, as Greene swatted it out of mid-air, but the horn sounded :15 later and confirmed a goal for Yanni Gourde. The puck crossed the goal line well before Greene got his stick on it.

The Islanders really were very close to scoring at various points. One such opportunity saw Josh Bailey or Anthony Beauvillier, I believe, put it off the crossbar close enough that Nelson thought it was in, and then Nelson had another chance down low and just bricked it over the crossbar.

Shortly after that goal, Jean-Gabriel Pageau took a hooking penalty. It was almost killed off by the Islanders, but Greene spun around and tried to knock a puck out of the air and instead caught Gourde in the face. The Lightning continued the man advantage and they again scored with Greene in the box. Point sneaked behind Pelech and called for a shot-pass from Hedman. Hedman gave him a perfect look and Point showed his gratitude with a perfect tip.

5-1 is an ugly score to enter the second intermission, but it still wasn’t as bad as the scoresheet might suggest, at this point.

I don’t remember if it was during the Pageau penalty or the Greene penalty, but Cal Clutterbuck failed to clear and, in an attempt to redeem himself, laid out and blocked a blast from the point. He had to be helped off and didn’t return for the rest of the period. Clutterbuck hobbled back out to the bench after the third started but soon went back down the tunnel. Not like he missed much.

Third Period: Purely Elementary

Stranger things have happened in playoff hockey, but with this game mostly done, it was all about setting a physical tone and finishing strong for the Islanders. They did one of those things, sort of. There was a bit of a scuffle early in the period and Ross Johnston got a ten-minute misconduct while Matt Martin and Mikhail Sergachev earned matching minors. Other than that, though, not much to love this period.

Nikita Kucherov scored off an odd-man rush by putting his stick out to knock in a pass from Point at the crease to make it 6-1.

Lee hit Nick Leddy with a feed as he cruised into the slot and beat Vasilevskiy to make it 6-2. Helped you think they were going to finish a little strong.

Then, Ondrej Palat put that thought to rest by idly deking around Varlamov and scoring off his goalie stick, giving both Point and Kucherov their fifth points of the night. For good measure, Gourde added a second goal to make it 8-2.

So, a poor finish.

Quick Thoughts

  • The Lightning’s top line had a hell of a night. Got to give it to them. They dummied the Islanders tonight. Point and Kucherov had five points each, the first such accomplishments in Lightning playoff history.
  • Vasilevskiy was strong all night, making some big stops. But he also interrupts the Islanders’ style a bit. Outside of Barzal, the Islanders, as we know, dump the puck in a lot and they’re often successful at retrieving the puck in deep and setting up. Vasilevskiy, however, frequently went behind the net and caught the puck off the boards, allowing his team to grab the puck and go the other way.
  • The game was much closer than the score, to be honest. I can’t say that I’m totally disappointed with the way the Islanders played tonight. I wrote that line at the end of the second period, hoping that the Islanders would just hold the line, but I was wrong. That’s my fault. My apologies, everyone. The Lightning are on a mission this postseason and it’s going to take a lot to stop them. I mean, they didn’t misfire on a shot until the very end of the game.
  • The Lightning are a fast and talented team and didn’t seem to be affected by their week off—in fact, they seemed rejuvenated by their week off—whereas the Islanders just played a fairly grueling seven-game series featuring three overtime games. And the breaks were all there for Tampa, whereas New York just missed on a bunch of chances early. That’s Hockey, as they say.
  • I guess they have to go back to Greiss on Wednesday, right? The game really was out of reach when Varlamov came in, but he was atrocious. He also took a puck off the side of his mask, possibly his neck, and started to skate off the ice before the final horn sounded.
  • Doesn’t matter if you lose by one goal or ten goals, it’s only one loss. The series is only 1-0. Gotta be quite a bit better in Game 2, though. And all of them.
  • Hey, the last time the Islanders gave up 8 in a playoff game, it was to the Flyers on May 15, 1980. I think the rest of that series worked out pretty well.

Up Next

Game 2 is Wednesday night at 8:00 p.m. EDT. I think we all expect a better effort than that next time.