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Lightning 4, Islanders 1: Almost time to go home

It can’t come soon enough, as I’m sure they’d tell you themselves.

New York Islanders v Tampa Bay Lightning
Much brawling.
Photo by Mark LoMoglio/NHLI via Getty Images

Andy Greene tonight played his 1,000th game. That was about the only highlight of the New York Islanders’ return to Tampa, Florida—well, that and the chippyness.

It was also a milestone for Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who played in his 500th NHL game. But the Islanders looked woefully flat and flat-footed—again—in losing to the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning, who certainly are the Isles’ kryptonite.

There was an opening face-off fight, a rarity these days, and the Isles used that energy to jump out to an early lead on a breakaway goal by Mathew Barzal. But that was the only goal they scored all night, and that lead lasted twenty-three seconds. The Islanders looked visibly frustrated, like a team that just wants to go home. And at this point, who could blame them?

Lineup Notes

Greene celebrated his 1,000th game by lining up on his off-side next to a guy that has barely played any actual hockey over the last two years. The Isles made Noah Dobson a healthy scratch, inserting Sebastian Aho.

Casey Cizikas missed the game with a non-COVID-19-related illness. Kieffer Bellows came back in, and Zach Parise went up to the top line while Josh Bailey went down to the third line. Oliver Wahlstrom lined up on the fourth line, with Cal Clutterbuck sliding over to center, at least in line rushes. Barry Trotz shuffled his lines throughout the game.

Semyon Varlamov made his second start of the season, matching up against likely the best goaltender in the world in Andrei Vasilevskiy.

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

First Period

Off the opening face-off, Zdeno Chara challenged Pat Maroon to a fight and defeated him. According to MSG play-by-play announcer Brendan Burke’s NHL sources, Maroon is one of the few players in the league that will agree to fight Chara. I guess Chara was feeling feisty.

Then, the teams traded goals off errors; the Isles were first, Victor Hedman, of all people, bobbled the puck at the blue line with Mathew Barzal and Zach Parise pressuring him. Barzal sprung quickly and Parise fed him for the breakaway. He deked Vasilevskiy and lifted a backhander over the outstretched pad of the Russian netminder. That was at 2:53.

At 3:16—only twenty-three seconds later, if you’re counting—a failed clear out of the Islanders’ zone ended with Mathieu Joseph finding a bit too much open ice in the slot and snapping it over the shoulder of Varlamov.

After that, the game settled down, surely to the delight of the defensively-minded coaches behind the benches. Before the end of the period, though, the Lightning took the lead.

Anders Lee went to the box for high-sticking with a little more than two minutes left in the first. The Islanders technically killed it off, but Anthony Cirelli put away a rebound not long after the penalty expired.

Second Period

The Isles got their first power play of the game just nineteen seconds into the period, as Corey Perry was whistled for tripping Jean-Gabriel Pageau. Aho took Dobson’s spot up at the blue line, but the Islanders played the power play far too passively to be dangerous.

Oliver Wahlstrom, in only his second or third minute of ice-time, ripped a nice shot off a broken play just before the first commercial break. Shortly after that commercial break, Hedman took a shot from that point that hit Ondrej Palat and bounced back out to Hedman, who tried again from along the goal line. Varlamov squeezed it to the post, as confirmed by an extremely brief and unannounced review.

After some good pressure down low, Kyle Palmieri drew another Islanders power play. This power play started off much better, and Brock Nelson’s tip rang off the post. But it turned squirrelly shortly after that.

Play went the other way, and Ryan Pulock sandwiched Alex Killorn to the boards. While he was there, Nelson bee-lined to Killorn and skated in and hit Killorn high, which initially earned him a penalty. But Cirelli came to his rescue and started pounding on Nelson before Nelson got his gloves off.

Cirelli earned the rare instigation penalty, removing him for two-five-and-ten, but the referees also gave Nelson a major penalty for charging on top of his fighting major. The charging major was reviewed, and Nelson did not skate full-speed into Killorn—more so glided—so the major was reduced to a minor. The result was canceling minor penalties, no Nelson for seven minutes, and no Cirelli for seventeen minutes.

The Islanders did not do much with the remainder of their second power play. They got another chance when Hedman took a tripping penalty, but that power play was the worst one yet, and it caused some pain: Pulock defended Joseph on a slow rush to kill time, but Pulock blocked Joseph’s shot painfully off his foot.

Just before the period ended, Bellows crushed Perry, and a fracas ensued. Maroon and Perry confronted Bellows, and Perry continued to go after Bellows well after the officials had separated them. Maroon wanted to keep going, too, and Pageau wanted to fight Jan Rutta, but the officials kept the game civil.

Third Period

On the opening face-off, Perry ripped off Matt Martin’s helmet, enraging the Isles’ bruiser. Martin said, “Come on, tough guy.” Perry looked like he was going to join him, but he instead picked up his stick and skated away.

Palmieri backchecked on Palat as the Lightning winger tried to exit his own zone. He stole the puck and turned around for Anthony Beauvillier, but Tampa Bay defenders swarmed him before he could take a shot.

Back the other way, Palat nearly beat Varlamov, who was sliding from side-to-side, but the puck hit a body along the way. The Lightning had another near-miss on a wide open net about halfway through the period, too, but the Islanders got away with it.

Then, they went on the penalty kill after Martin interfered with Perry. On the power play, Cirelli returned for his first shift since fighting Nelson and took Pageau’s time-killing to the chin. The Isles ran out the time on the penalty and went back up the ice. They did not get much of a chance on that actual odd-man rush, but they won the battle in the corner and created a good chance off of that.

However, the Lightning put the game away on their next chance. Palat and Killorn skated in on a two-on-one created by Mayfield missing his man. Varlamov made the initial save, and every Islander on the ice got back in time, but no one was able to find the puck. Aho kicked it on accident out to the slot, and Point roofed it.

With the frustration setting in, Chara butt-ended Boris Katchouk in the face. The Tampa rookie angrily went at Chara and missed badly, but he earned a takedown with the help of the officials. They both got ten-minute misconducts, and Chara got an extra two minutes for high-sticking. Steven Stamkos joined the scoring on that power play to make it 4-1.

Parise then took a slashing minor on which the Lightning failed to score. Palmieri escaped on a small breakway looking for his first of the season, but Vasilevksiy stopped it.

Notes and Thoughts

  • Wahlstrom barely played. He finished with 8:33—only 5:55 at even-strength and only 1:29 in the first period. The whole team looks off right now, so laying blame at his feet seems strange. Moreover, when your team’s offense is as much of a black hole as it has been, I would think that keeping one of your top goal-scorers on the bench most of the game is a peculiar move, to say the least.
  • I kind of enjoyed the Islanders getting chippy with the Lightning. You can tell they’re still pissed about last year, as they should be. Not sure why Chara was so upset, though.
  • This road trip needs to end. Luckily, it’s about to.

Up Next

The Islanders finally wrap up this crazy road trip tomorrow night in Sunrise, Florida. The Florida Panthers will host the Isles for the second and final time this season (and this road trip) at 7:00 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast exclusively on ESPN+ and Hulu.