The Islanders may have left their game in Toronto.
In what turned out to be their most lackluster performance since the start of the playoffs, the Islanders had circles skated around them Monday night as the Lightning took a roaring 8-2 victory in Game 1 at Rogers Place in Edmonton.
Whether it was the one-day turnaround after the second round or the full day of travel that followed, the Islanders were outworked from start to finish. It could’ve been the fact that Tampa Bay has been preparing for its next opponent since defeating the Bruins in five games on Aug. 31. Or maybe the Islanders’ emotional high after defeating the Flyers in Game 7 on Saturday night was too much to come down from so soon.
But the Islanders wouldn’t point to excuses following the loss. They gave credit where it was due and owned up to what Matt Martin described as an “embarrassing” loss to trail 1-0 in the Eastern Conference finals series. Now, the Isles look to turn the page with Game 2 set for Wednesday at 8 p.m.
“You can look at it either way, you can look at it as getting blown out or you can look at it as a tight overtime loss, whatever it is, you have to be able to move on right away,” captain Anders Lee said on a Zoom call following the game. “It’s a long series, it’s Game 1. We dropped the ball tonight but we have an opportunity to come right back at it. Fix our mistakes and I think we’re already looking forward to Game 2, especially after tonight.
“You get this far in a series like this, you can’t dwell on a loss. You have to be ready for the next one.”
The Lightning’s eight goals tied the most ever against the Islanders in a playoff game, the previous time coming in 1980 by the Flyers. Tying their franchise record for most goals in a playoff game, Tampa Bay matched the eight goals it scored in Game 5 of the 2011 Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
Islanders coach Barry Trotz opted to start Thomas Greiss in net for the second straight game after his shutout performance Saturday. But after allowing three goals on nine shots just under 11 minutes into the game, Greiss was replaced by Semyon Varlamov.
The Lightning had the Isles playing to their pace and style right from the opening puck drop. Just over a minute into the first period, Brayden Point took the puck all by himself into the Islanders zone and powered by defenseman Ryan Pulock to the net before sweeping the puck past Greiss for a 1-0 lead. Point extended his point streak to seven straight games.
The Islanders struck back as Blake Coleman was called for interference shortly after and Jordan Eberle broke through and stuffed home a rebound at 4:33 to pull even 1-1.
Going on their second power play of the night after Andy Greene hooked Nikita Kucherov, the Lightning took the lead on a blast from Victor Hedman. Tampa Bay continued to overwhelm the Islanders, with Ryan McDonagh sniping one short side on Greiss to make it 3-1 at 10:46.
Trotz then promptly replaced Greiss with Varlamov.
Even starting the second period on the man-advantage couldn’t swing momentum in the Islanders favor as Tampa Bay continued to be dominant on the forecheck. A three-on-two Lightning rush ended with Yanni Gourde sweeping the puck in for the 4-1 lead just over four minutes into the period.
Despite limiting the Lightning’s chances after the goalie change, a slew of penalties worked against an already tired Islanders lineup. Point recorded his second goal of the night with a tip on a Hedman shot from the point to go up 5-1 after Greene was penalized for high sticking.
“Every time we made a mistake, they scored,” Trotz said. “Once they got the fifth goal, that’s what got out of hand and it was only a matter of time.”
Kucherov, Gourde and Ondrej Palat rounded out the Lightning’s scoring with a goal each in the third period.
“This game, we’re going to wash it away,” Trotz said. “We’ve lost some heartbreakers in overtime, some real hard matches and all that. Sometimes you get it handed to you like we did today. It’s still a loss and we just have to regroup.”