For the third time this postseason, the Isles face a 2-1 series deficit after falling to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night.
After holding the defensive edge over their first two opponents in the playoffs, the Islanders have finally met their match in the Lightning.
As the Islanders lost 2-1 on Thursday night in the first semifinal game Nassau Coliseum has hosted since 1993, it was evident that it’s going to take a lot more skill and manpower to overcome Tampa Bay. With the victory, the Lightning swung the series 2-1 in their favor heading into Game 4 on Saturday night back at The Barn.
The Islanders haven’t been able to score more than two goals against the Lightning in any of the first three games. While the Isles are known to have defensively responsible forwards, so does Tampa Bay — and it has made capitalizing on high-danger opportunities that much more difficult.
“Tampa is good all-around,” said Matt Martin, who assisted on the Islanders’ lone goal from Cal Clutterbuck. “They’re the defending Stanley Cup champions and they know what it takes to win. They got a couple top-tier defensemen and four good lines that know what they have to do in their D-zone.
“There’s a lot of top teams in this league that know how to take care of their own end and they’re certainly one of them.”
Trailing 1-0 at the start of the second, after Tampa Bay’s Yanni Gourde put one in off a sharp angle halfway through the opening frame, the Islanders weren’t very active to start the period but then hit a spurt of momentum. Following a Mathew Barzal chance that saw the Isles star center fling the puck through the crease, the Islanders broke through at 17:01.
In the midst of a scramble in front of Tampa Bay’s net, Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak tried to put the puck under goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy’s pads, but Clutterbuck jammed it over the goal line to tie the game.
The Islanders were starting to buzz, but an interference call on defenseman Adam Pelech sent them to the penalty kill — and the crowd of 12,978 into a fit of fury. Just as it expired, Lightning top-line center Brayden Point scored his third goal of the series, swiping the puck through while falling to the ice for the 2-1 lead with 17.4 seconds left in the period.
With eight shots in the third period, the Islanders had a few looks to pull even again. They outshot the Lightning 4-0 through the first 8:47, but nothing came of it. The Islanders weren’t able to create anything when goalie Semyon Varlamov was pulled with 1:49 left in regulation, either.
For an organization that prides itself on being a four-line team, the Islanders seemingly only had two Thursday night — and it was the bottom six. Barzal posed as a threat on a handful of shifts, otherwise, the Islanders didn’t get much from their usual contributors.
“I felt that we had four lines for parts of the game, but not all of the game,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “I thought we came out OK, and then we sort of had a little bit of a dry spell, where I felt they had way more chances in the first. I thought we responded with a little bit of a slow start in the second and then I thought we came on really strong.
“At the end of the day, pretty even game. They just capitalized on a chance on a sort of scramble at the end of the power play.”
This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Mollie Walker