Well, let’s get this thing over with.
Game 5 is always pivotal in a 2-2 series. In their previous two tries, the New York Islanders won Game 5 on the road despite being mostly outplayed. This time, they lost. They lost big. In fact, they lost so badly to the Tampa Bay Lightning, you almost have to laugh about it.
That was not the team we know, and I do not think that they will have any trouble forgetting about this one after ten minutes. A game like that is almost easier to move on from than, say, a 3-0 loss.
Now, Wednesday’s Game 6 at Nassau Coliseum is to save the Islanders’ season and force Game 7 back in Tampa.
First Period: Sub-Optimal
The game got off to a rough start. Only forty-five seconds into the game, Steven Stamkos fed Alex Killorn off the rush. Adam Pelech blocked Killorn’s shot, but the puck popped right out to Stamkos, who had a wide-open net at which to shoot. A little “what-are-you-gonna-do” kind of goal. No big deal, plenty of hockey left to play... right?
Fix: #Skinny: 4th time since 2013 that #Isles allowed a goal in 1st minute of a playoff game -- NYI won first three, offsetting early goals by Malkin (2013), Guentzel (2019) and Ovechkin (2020). #NHL #StanleyCup— Eric Hornick (@ehornick) June 22, 2021
The Islanders seemed to settle into the game thereafter, though. Kyle Palmieri began the game playing with Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle, but given that Tampa Bay scored on its first shift, it is unclear if that is how Barry Trotz intended to roll out his lines to start tonight. They had a chance down low on Andrei Vasilevskiy’s first save of the game. For his second save, he had to stop Jean-Gabriel Pageau in on him alone.
However, “seemed” turned out to be doing a lot of work in the first sentence of the previous paragraph. The Lightning kept the puck in the Isles’ end for much of the rest of the period. They did not create anything particularly dangerous until a failed Islanders’ clear allowed Yanni Gourde to turn around for a mini two-on-one with Barclay Goodrow. Gourde went for the pass, and Andy Greene laid out to block it. Unfortunately, the puck rode his stick through Semyon Varlamov’s five-hole. Two goals on two bad breaks; that’s hockey.
After that, Tampa had the Isles chasing. The Islanders needed to escape the period without giving up any more goals. Sadly, that would not happen. Another rush chance, another flukey goal. Killorn got the credit, and that was the end of Varlamov’s night. In came Ilya Sorokin.
When the first period mercifully ended, the Lightning had a wide edge in shots-on-goal (19-5), scoring chances (19-7)—apparently, every shot-on-goal was a scoring chance—and high-danger chances (8-3). That made a bit of a hill to climb.
The frustrating part was that this team had shaken off early opposition goals a few times in this postseason, and they looked to be on their way to doing just that again tonight. They seemed alright after the first goal. But the second one had them pressing, and the third one deflated them.
Butch Goring wanted to shake some skulls. But even he had to remind us that there was still plenty of hockey to play.
Second Period: Murphy’s Law
Not even Butchie’s words of encouragement could save them tonight.
The Brock Nelson line caught the Lightning in a change early in the period, setting up a two-on-none. Vasilevskiy made the first save on Anthony Beauvillier and kicked the puck right out to Nelson facing a yawning cage, but he could not corral the puck. On the same shift, Bailey had Vasilevskiy down in front, and he hit the post. Beauvillier hit the post immediately after that. Just, ugh.
The Islanders had the Lightning on their heels to start the period, but Nelson got his stick up on the hands of Jan Rutta to take the game’s first penalty. Right off the face-off to start the power play, Sorokin took to the throat a point shot from Kucherov. He needed some attention, and for a hot minute, it looked like Varlamov had to come back into the game. But Sorokin waved them off and stayed in the game.
Casey Cizikas had a decent chance on the kill, but game-play went back the other way and increased the Tampa Bay lead. Their lethal power play moved the puck around; eventually, Victor Hedman fed Stamkos for a one-timer to make it 4-0.
Frustration clearly set into the minds of the Islanders, as first evidenced by Cal Clutterbuck’s boarding penalty on Ondrej Palat. A couple of failed clears necessitated Sorokin waving his stick to break up a cross-crease pass. They killed off Clutterbuck’s minor.
But right back to the kill they went after Palmieri stuck out his leg to trip Blake Coleman. Some good sticks, some nice stops by Sorokin, and another shorthanded Cizikas rush allowed the Islanders to kill off that penalty, too. They needed to carry some momentum off those two penalty kills and break the ice at least once.
The game went to a commercial break right after the third kill ended, though. The Islanders came out of the break flat, iced the puck, and conceded another goal. Palat tipped a Savard point shot right off the face-off with Brayden Point interfering with Komarov, preventing anyone from picking up Palat. 5-0.
Matt Martin battled with Pat Maroon on the next shift, and when play went back the other way, he fought Luke Schenn. Ross Colton pushed Martin into Schenn, and they both crashed into Vasilevskiy. The fight was short-lived with Schenn slipping into the blue paint.
On the next shift, Pageau won the face-off and Palmieri recovered the puck. He sent a cross-ice feed back to Pageau right in front of Vasilevskiy, but the Tampa netminder made the save. The same groups lined up for the next draw, and Pageau tripped Hedman going back the other way, sending the Lightning to their fourth power play of the period and game. They scored quickly, with Killorn tipping a shot from Hedman past Sorokin. 6-0.
Nelson cross-checked Ryan McDonagh on the next play, and McDonagh returned the favor, giving the Islanders their first power play with less than two minutes left in the period. They did not score in that time, and Barzal turned things from bad to way worse to end the period.
He had words with Rutta on the way back to the benches as time ticked down and cross-checked him twice, the second time catching him in the side of the head. Rutta went down and stayed down for a while, getting up and leaving the ice under his own power. The replay review confirmed the referees’ initial call of a five-minute major and game misconduct for Barzal.
Hopefully, that discipline suffices—it was not the worst cross-check to head I have ever seen—but it would not be shocking if he heard from the Department of Player Safety ahead of Game 6. As Arthur Staple said, it was embarrassing. A play like that clearly tells your opponent that you snapped, and that is when they get you by the throat. And on top of that, Barzal’s status for the next game could be best described as “in question.”
Barzal gets a major and game misconduct at the end of the second. Don't see him getting suspended for Game 6 off that, but again -- why put that in question?#Isles embarrassing themselves tonight.— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) June 22, 2021
Third Period: Let the Clock Run Out
Eberle, Martin, and Pageau started the third period in the penalty box for the Islanders, while McDonagh and Cirelli did the same for the Lightning. Rutta did not return to the bench to start the period.
After the four-on-four ended, the Lightning began the remaining four minutes of the major by setting up some pretty passing that finished with Point scoring for the eighth consecutive game from the bumper slot. 7-0, with more than three minutes of non-releasing penalty time to kill. Cooper continued to run out his top unit while up 7-0, but the major expired without another goal.
The rest was mostly elementary. Eberle took a Ryan Pulock shot off the belly that halted play. He got up under his own power but was in pain on the bench. Tampa made it 8-0 when Schenn floated a shot off Pulock’s skate with just under eight minutes left.
Typical of Isles night. Schenn shot from the right point deflects off Pulock and past Sorokin.— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) June 22, 2021
Eberle returned after the eighth goal, which was good to see.
With only three-and-a-half minutes remaining, Goodrow cross-checked Cizikas in the back well away from the play. Martin challenged an unwilling Goodrow, Pelech danced with Gourde, Mayfield adamantly chased a still unwilling Goodrow and attempted to get at Schenn, and the referees had to sort out the melee. The Islanders ended up with a power play out of the scrum.
The power play units had chances to break Vasilevskiy’s shutout, but could not do it. Beauvillier and McDonagh took runs at one another. And, finally, the horn blew on the worst Isles’ loss in their playoff history.
Notes and Thoughts
- If “not your night” was a word in the dictionary, the image next to the definition would be the quote-unquote highlights of this game. Not much more needs to be said about it.
- But if we want to take away a couple of positives, one might be that the Islanders had great chances to get back in the game that the hockey gods simply denied them. If one or two of those chances early in the second period go past Vasilevskiy, who knows how this game unfolds?
- Also, whether you lose 1-0 or 8-0, it is still only one loss. Burn the tape, get some rest, and come out with your ass on fire in Game 6.
- However, if Barzal receives a suspension for his cross-check, that would dim the Isles’ chances to stave off elimination.
- Before the commercial break separating the Isles’ second and third penalty kills in the second period, Eddie Olcyzk gave a tearful tribute to the late Tom Kurvers, who passed away today at the age of 58 after a two-and-a-half-year battle with lung cancer. Rest in peace to the former Islander.
Game 6 between these two teams will take place Wednesday night at 8:00 p.m. ET at Nassau Coliseum. The Isles’ season will be on the line.