The New York Islanders returned home and completed a winless weekend against two playoff-bound foes they met last spring. Sunday’s matinee was a 4-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, though it was a better performance than their 6-3 loss Saturday in Boston.
The loss ends a six-game home win streak and may be costly in net: Ilya Sorokin, who stopped 18 of 20 shots, was replaced by Semyon Varlamov after two periods for what was suspected to be an injury/health issue but we were still awaiting official word at the end of the game.
The Islanders also brought Grant Hutton up and put him on the blueline in place of Sebastian Aho, who’s had some puckhandling and battle miscues lately.
Hutton hadn’t played in the NHL since his debut stretch of five games in November and December at the height of the Isles’ COVID carnage. In today’s game he looked like he was still trying to fit in, much like his blueline elders.
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First Period: Nelson hits 31
It was a good, evenly played first period that tested both goalies at times and almost finished scoreless but for a late counterattack by the Isles.
Brock Nelson took advantage of a good check by the Isles and an aggressive pinch by the Lightning to take the puck the other way on a two-on-one. Nelson, whose shot seems to be getting better and more deceptive with time, chose to shoot and whipped it high past Andrei Vasilevskiy at 18:14 for his 31st of the season.
Islanders Goals— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) March 27, 2022
└ 2021-22 Season
That goal made for a bit of franchise trivia, as Nelson became the first Islander to score at least 12 goals in a calendar month since Ziggy Palffy (13 goals in 14 games) in March 1996.
It also ended up being the high point of the Islanders afternoon, as they’d give up the lead 70 seconds into the next period and wouldn’t score again.
Second Period: Gone in a Flash
Zdeno Chara took a tripping penalty late in the first period, which carried over into the second and gave the Lightning the chance they needed to tie it quickly.
The goal came on a rush though, as the Islanders broke through the neutral zone and Victor Hedman built himself some space down the right wing. His shot went far side on Sorokin, between the body and arm, one that #30 should probably stop.
The go-ahead goal was really disappointing, as the Isles had otherwise been staying basically even with the visitors. The top pair of Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock were a little sloppy moving the puck inside the blueline of the Lightning zone, and Anthony Beauvillier didn’t move quickly enough to support. Anthony Cirelli anticipated the sloppy passing, beat everyone to the loose puck, and poked it ahead to Alex Killorn, who fed it back to create a two-on-one. Cirilli found Killorn rushing to the net unaccosted, and he directed it home to make it 2-1 at 9:47.
The Islanders thought they’d tied it at 2-2 with 14 seconds left, when J-G Pageau whipped a sneaky backhand home from a bad angle. But upon reviewing the zone entry, Kyle Palmieri had whiffed on the puck and then preceded it across the blueline. The Lightning challenged the goal for offside and it was overturned.
So no goal, and things stood at 2-1 heading into the third period, with a goalie change imminent.
Third Period: That’ll be enough, thanks
It wasn’t obvious what pulled Sorokin from the game, but he wasn’t in net to start the third. One suspect: He’d previously taken two high shots that dislodged his mask, one from Pat Maroon and one hard one-timer from Steve Stamkos that also hit the collarbone/shoulder area.
The Lightning applied pressure early, but it took until midway through the period to get their insurance goal. Ross Colton was uncovered as he pounced on a rebound and put it behind Varlamov from in close.
Mikhail Sergachev added the fourth with just over three minutes to go, but the game looked dead and done once Colton had scored.
The Isles have a home-and-home with the Blue Jackets this week, starting with a visit to Columbus on Tuesday before the return engagement on Thursday to close out this busy month.