This Islanders’ loss much more painful than a blowout

So the first one was a fiasco for darn near the full 60 minutes whereas the second one devolved into slapstick only after 59:40 of play and for only about a sum of 12 seconds, at that.

But that was enough. That was enough to undermine a dedicated, workmanlike effort in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals that had been played to Islander dictates. That was enough to spoil the whole darn thing.

Because suddenly, in a 1-1 game that seemed under control while inexorably ticking toward overtime, the Islanders slipped on a boatload of banana peels. Yanni Gourde had a semi-breakaway up the middle with 20 seconds to go, only to be stopped by Semyon Varlamov. After the Lightning retrieved, Ondrej Palat had a point-blank shot alone in the slot, only to send it wide.

Andy Greene then threw it to no one up the boards. Oh, that’s not exactly accurate. Greene actually threw it up the wall to an aggressive, pinching Ryan McDonagh, who wears the wrong uniform. The former Ranger then fired an impeccable cross-ice pass to Nikita Kucherov, who rifled it home with 8.8 seconds remaining while the Islanders five of Andrew Ladd, J-G Pageau, Leo Komarov, Greene and Ryan Pulock were all in no-man’s land.

So, 2-1. Worse in its way than 8-2. Because this was a night the Islanders limited Tampa Bay to all of 21 shots, including 15 through the first 50 minutes. They held the Lightning without a shot from 5:11 to 18:25 of the first period. Of course when Tampa did finally get a puck on net after that span of 13:14, it went in after a faceoff loss following an unforced icing that probably was called incorrectly.

Semyon Varlamov allows the game-winning goal to Nikita Kucherov (not pictured) with 8.8 seconds left in the Islanders’ 2-1 Game 2 loss to the Lightning.NHLI via Getty Images

Splat.

This was a contest in which the Lightning could not get into open ice. And this was a game in which the Lightning went with nine forwards for the final 35 minutes following the first-period game misconduct assessed to Alex Killorn for his hit to the head on Brock Nelson and the second period injury that forced first-line center Brayden Point from the match.

Still, it is now 2-0 in the series that will continue with Friday’s Game 3. Teams have overcome that deficit before in best-of-sevens, and if the Lightning are without Point for an extended period of time that could, and/or should, become a significant factor. But the Islanders could, or should, have won this one. And did not.

“We battled hard and I knew we would,” said Matt Martin, whose goal from the inner rim of the right circle gave his team a 1-0 edge just 1:24 into the match. “I said the other night I have a ton of confidence in this team and that we believed we could win the series, and we still do.

“It’s a good effort, unfortunately we came up a little short. But when you play like that more often that not, you’re going to win.”

But you’re not going to win many games in May — er, September — by time and again squandering opportunities on the power play. The Islanders got away with a loose man-advantage the last round against the Flyers, but just barely. After erasing a 3-0 deficit in Game 2, the team failed on a late third-period man-advantage before losing in overtime. The scenario repeated itself late in regulation of Game 5, when the Islanders failed on a late third-period power play after rallying from 3-1 to tie, again to lose in overtime. The difference this time is that the game didn’t get to extra time.

The difference this time is that the Islanders were feeble on the five-minute major advantage they received at 5:55 of the first when Killorn played the bongos with Nelson’s head against the glass. Vasilevskiy faced four shots. Then, the Islanders botched a 38-second two-man advantage midway through the third period on this 0-for-4 night.

“We’re trying to get a little bit too fine, I think,” Trotz said of the power play that is 10-for-64 on the tournament. “Sometimes you’ve got to get a little greasy. I think we were trying to pass it in the net tonight.”

Nelson missed over 23 minutes of playing time after he absorbed Killorn’s blow, getting back onto the ice at 9:01 of the second. Fifteen seconds later, he was crosschecked in the neck by Barclay Goodrow, No. 29’s face again getting the brunt of it against the wall. No call was made this time.

“We didn’t like the [Killorn] hit but the refs made the right call,” said Martin. “And then, yeah, we didn’t like the cheap-shot crosscheck to his head, either.”

There was a lot to like about the Islanders game but nothing to like at all about the final 20 seconds. So after 8-2 and 2-1, it is 2-0. You do the math.