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Lightning 4, Islanders 2: Isles come up short tonight but leave Tampa with a road split

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Tampa Bay was the better team tonight, bringing their A-game after getting outworked by the Islanders on Sunday.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Islanders at Tampa Bay Lightning
Lotta fighting tonight, but less goals than needed.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After an impressive win on Sunday, the New York Islanders had to expect that Tampa would come out swinging. It seemed like they could weather the storm, the game tied at 1 apiece until a little over halfway through the second period, when the Lightning scored with (uncalled) too many men on the ice.

Vasilevskiy made some key saves when he needed to and Tampa gave him offensive support this game, scoring four times and getting their first two goals from defensemen this postseason. The Isles just couldn’t shut the Lightning’s top players down tonight and couldn’t break Vasilevskiy consistently. Definitely a lot to learn from in this game, but a lot to be positive about too, heading back to the Coliseum.

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First Period

Tampa started the game strong as expected, though the Barzal line looked dangerous early, with Barzal and Komarov both getting some good looks on Vasilevskiy.

Scott Mayfield and Pat Maroon were both called for roughing minors after Mayfield hounded Maroon through the neutral zone, drawing his attention (and his fists.) Martin tried to get Maroon to go for a fight in the same stoppage, but the ref kept them apart.

Ryan Pulock then went to the box for high sticking Anthony Cirelli, and Varlamov made huge saves on Point and Kucherov to keep the scoresheet empty.

Later, Mayfield turned the puck over, creating a change for Sergachev that Varlamov saved. But turnovers would hurt the Islanders, with Adam Pelech’s turnover soon after leading to Point making it 1-0 Tampa.

The Isles went to the power play after Steven Stamkos slashed Andy Greene’s stick out of his hands and Vasilevskiy made two huge saves on Zajac and Palmieri to keep the 1-0 Tampa lead and kill the penalty.

After, Point had a partial breakaway and was heading to the net, and Pelech pushed him, leading to him colliding with Varlamov. Varlamov was pulled by concussion spotters and so Ilya Sorokin had to come in, and Point went to the box on a very subjective goaltender interference call. It’s really hard to say Point could’ve done a lot to avoid Varlamov, but he also had his head down the whole way and did absolutely nothing at all, which probably influenced the decision.

Palmieri hit the post early on that power play, but then Brock Nelson would tie the game on the man advantage.

The shift after, both fourth lines went at it, after Ross Colton shoved Cizikas down to the ice and then they started fighting each other, and then Martin and Maroon finally got their fight, and those two were the only ones called for penalties, each with a fighting major.

Sorokin made a huge save on Jan Rutta and then the Islanders were hemmed in their zone and only really bailed out after Cirelli was forced off the ice because he lost his helmet after Pageau checked him into the boards (of course, Cirelli got away with passing the puck off to a teammate first, but I digress.)

Sorokin made a big save on Stamkos, and then the Lightning got another power play, this time on Komarov for interference on Killorn, a weak likely makeup call for the Point decision.

Sorokin made a save on Cirelli on the power play and the Isles killed that penalty, and then Sorokin saved a Cirelli partial breakaway shot to close out the period tied 1-1.

At one point during the period, Pageau had reached for the puck on his backhand and tweaked something, leaving the bench to head to the room early. He was back out for the second period and played, but then benched out of precaution later in the third period.

Second Period

Varlamov was back to start the second frame and made a big save on Kucherov early.

Beauvillier hit the outside of the post after Nelson got the puck to him on a partial 2 on 1 after a bad Tampa change.

There was a nervy moment when Eberle failed to clear after Pelech had lost his stick in the defensive zone, leading to Komarov making a huge shot block on Victor Hedman, one of those veteran defensive plays that helps keep him in the lineup.

Blake Coleman went to the box after slashing and breaking Pageau’s stick, but the Isles’ power play was ineffective this time around, and Varlamov had to make a shorthanded stop on Yanni Gourde.

Pulock had a great chance that Vasilevskiy saved, and at the other end of the ice Varlamov came up huge with two stops on Ondrej Palat.

Dobson had a shot saved by Vasilevskiy and Barzal got the rebound chance that Vasilevskiy also saved. Off a faceoff win, Dobson drove to the net and had a good look that Vasilevskiy got a piece of.

After that run of play in the Islanders’ favor, Hedman was able to send a stretch pass to Kucherov, who drew both Barzal and Leddy to him, leaving Palat all alone to receive a pass and make it 2-1. While it didn’t directly affect the play, Tampa blatantly had six skaters on the ice, which is a rulebook call that shouldn’t have been missed and was a big moment in what was the Isles’ best period in a very close game at that point.

Beauvillier had a great chance to close out the period, but Vasilevskiy, who really was outstanding tonight, made the save on that play to close out the period and preserve Tampa’s lead.

Third Period

Just around two minutes into the period, Jan Rutta made it 3-1 Tampa, scoring his first ever postseason goal, and getting Tampa’s first goal from a defenseman this postseason. Bailey screened Varlamov on the shot, which came after Pelech and Beauvillier failed to clear the puck out of the zone.

Varlamov made some big saves on Gourde and Stamkos, and then Stamkos drew a penalty after Zajac crosschecked him in front of the net.

The Islanders killed that penalty, but Zajac would go back to the box just a few minutes later on a weak slashing call, and Hedman would score his first of the playoffs on the power play to make it 4-1.

Gourde and Komarov fought, and both got roughing calls, but Komarov picked up a 10 minute misconduct penalty to go with that.

Erik Cernak went to the box just ten seconds into the 4 on 4 for slashing, which gave the Islanders a 4 on 3 power play, but they couldn’t take advantage.

Beauvillier went to the box for roughing Kucherov and the Isles killed that penalty, but only had 4 minutes left to make something happen down three goals.

Eberle made a great play to the net and Barzal scored to make it 4-2 which gave us some hope and continued his hot streak...

...but after pulling Varlamov with just 2:15 left, the Isles really didn’t put any shots on Vasilevskiy and dropped the game, 4-2. As the final whistle blew, some fighting broke out, with Zajac and Cirelli and Cernak and Pelech all exchanging some punches. Cirelli went right to the room after that, but seemed to be fine based on postgame comments from Jon Cooper.

Quick Thoughts

  • If Game 1 was one of the Isles’ best of the postseason, this was probably one of the worst. Rough game for Pelech especially, but also for Leddy and Dobson, so each pair was really struggling and Trotz’s efforts to mix them up didn’t help.
  • If Pageau isn’t 100% for the rest of this series, that’s definitely worrisome, because his shutdown play has been key to the Isles’ success this postseason. He’ll be relied on a ton for matchups in these next two games at the Coli, and he’ll need to be up to the task.
  • Coming out of Tampa with a road split is a pretty good result, and certainly one we would’ve taken when the series started. Can’t dwell too much on the loss, just have to be better for the next game.

Up Next

Thursday, this series hits the Coliseum for the first Stanley Cup semifinal game there since 1993. Ticket drama aside, gotta expect that fans will also be bringing their best and loudest. Let’s go!!