Well, you knew that was coming. There was no way, no matter how much you hoped and dreamed, that Tampa was going to go down without a fight and now you see exactly why they’re the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Tuesday night inside Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida, the Islanders were dealt a dose of reality as the Lightning throttled them 4-2 to even the series at a game apiece. For much of the game the Isles were unable to withstand Tampa’s ferocious forecheck and relentless offensive assault and they now need to come up with a new plan for how to contain this star-studded team as the series shifts to Uniondale. For starters, they’ll need to stay out of the penalty box as they gave the Lightning five power-plays, which is a recipe for disaster, not success.
So, let’s review exactly what happened in Game Two…
The Isles got off to a fast start as Andrei Vasilevskiy was forced to make an early save on an Uncle Leo (Leo Komarov) one-timer that resulted from a strong forecheck by the Islanders in Tampa’s zone. Then, things got chippy as Pat Maroon and Scott Mayfield went at each other along the far boards before Matt Martin then challenged Maroon at center ice. Maroon declined though and the teams skated four-aside.
Ryan Pulock followed that up by high-sticking Anthony Cirelli to put the Islanders at a 4-on-3 disadvantage for 59-seconds before reverting to a standard 5-on-4 penalty-kill. On the penalty-kill, Semyon Varlamov was his typically stout self as he made a couple of nice saves, including one on Nikita Kucherov at the doorstep.
Unfortunately, moments after the penalty boxes cleared, Kucherov sent a pass from behind the Isles’ net to Brayden Point, who one-timed the puck over Varlamov for the 1-0 Lightning lead at 8:58 of the first period.
Steven Stamkos then did his best to give away some of Tampa’s momentum as he was sent to the box for slashing Andy Greene at 9:23, however, the Islanders were twice robbed by Vasilevskiy; first on a Travis Zajac redirect and then on an unbelievable glove save against Kyle Palmieri to take away a surefire goal.
A couple shifts later, Adam Pelech shoved Point and Point went crashing into Varlamov, who went down and had to leave the game to enter concussion protocol. Somehow, Point was assessed a goalie interference penalty on the play, which sent the Islanders to their second power-play of the game. And, Ilya Sorokin entered the game for the Islanders in place of Varlamov.
On the power-play, Ryan McDonagh attempted to clear the puck, but instead put it right on Brock Nelson’s stick. Nelson fired from the slot and beat Vasilevskiy for the power-play goal to tie the game 1-1 at 13:30 of the first period.
Tempers began to boil over after the controversial call and ensuing goal as Ross Colton punched Casey Cizikas while the latter was down and that was followed up by Martin and Pat Maroon finally dropping the gloves in what was a pretty even tilt.
A couple minutes later, Leo Komarov was called for interference against Alex Killorn to once again send the Islanders to the penalty-kill. On the penalty-kill, Sorokin was forced to make several key saves. And once again, another scrum broke out as Yanni Gourde and Leo Komarov went at each other, as did Cal Clutterbuck and Tyler Johnson.
That was it for the action and nastiness in the first period, which was enough for an entire game. So, when the first intermission rolled around, the score was 1-1 and both teams had already combined for eight penalties, one more than they had in all of Game One.
On to period two and Semyon Varlamov returned to the game after being cleared by the medical staff. While Sorokin was in net he went six-for-six in saves and held down the fort for New York, so kudos to the rookie for handling the situation as well as he did.
The Isles started strong in the second period as Anthony Beauvillier rang one off the post at the end of a two-on-one odd man rush. Then, back in the Islanders’ zone, Adam Pelech lost his stick but was bailed out as Komarov handed him his, before then blocking Victor Hedman’s shot with his body.
Moments later, Blake Coleman was called for slashing J.G. Pageau’s stick to give the Islanders their third power-play of the game. But, on the power-play, Anthony Beauvillier coughed up the puck and Gourde took it up ice for a short-handed breakaway. Luckily, Varlamov stood tall and made the save to bail out Beauvillier.
That was it for the Nassaumen’s power-play as the game remained pretty chippy; however, Varlamov continued to be as strong as ever in net.
Things seemed to return to normal for a brief stretch, but then, with 13:15 gone in the middle period, Kucherov flew up the ice, drew multiple defenders to him and found a streaking Ondrej Palat in the slot. Palat received Kucherov’s pass and wired the puck past Varlamov for the 2-1 Lightning lead. However, the Referees clearly missed the fact that Tampa had SEVEN players on the ice (counting Vasilevskiy).
Barry Trotz was rightly livid about the blown call, but given the nature of the controversial goalie interference call against Point in the first period, this was basically par for the course in Game Two.
That was all for the second period, with the exception of a last second, point-blank save by Vasilevskiy on a shot from Beauvillier to keep the Lightning in the lead by one as the second intermission began.
The third period started with the Boys from Long Island trailing Tampa 2-1 and that soon became 3-1 as Jan Rutta fired a shot from the point through traffic to beat Varlamov at the 2:16 mark. There were several Islanders in between Rutta and Varlamov, which created the perfect screen for Tampa’s defenseman.
Things got worse for the Islanders a couple minutes later as Travis Zajac was called for interference against Stamkos to send the Nassaumen to the penalty-kill for the third time in the game.
New York managed to hold Tampa without a shot on goal, partially thanks to Casey Cizikas, who gave up his body to block a Hedman slapshot. So, the game returned to five-on-five in short order.
Unfortunately, Zajac (and the Referees) handed Tampa another power-play moments later when he “slashed” Barclay Goodrow. This time, the Lightning made New York pay as Hedman scored seconds into the man-advantage to put Tampa up 4-1 at the 9:17 mark of the third period.
Tempers flared again just over a minute later as Gourde and Komarov went at it along the near boards, which resulted in the teams skating four-aside.
That quickly became a four-on-three power-play for the Islanders when Erik Cernak slashed Nick Leddy seconds into the four-on-four. However, New York passed way too much on the power-play and didn’t shoot nearly enough, so the man-advantage went to waste.
Then, Beauvillier was called for roughing Kucherov, out of frustration, to give Tampa their fifth power-play of the game. New York held firm on the penalty-kill, but with just four-minutes left in regulation, it was going to be difficult to come all the way back.
Mathew Barzal did his part though, as he scored with 3:16 left in regulation to bring the Islanders within 4-2. It was Barzal’s fifth goal in his last six games.
Unfortunately, that’s as close as they got as the Boys from Long Island were unable to get shots towards the net after pulling Varlamov for the extra attacker. So, the Islanders lost 4-2 and the series is now even at a game apiece.
Game Three should be interesting given all the nastiness of Game Two, especially with the after the whistle antics once the game was over.
The Isles went 1-for-4 on the power-play to go to 1-for-7 in the series and 10-for-39 in the playoffs…The Isles went 4-for-5 on the penalty-kill to go to 5-for-7 in the series and 21-for-33 in the playoffs…Brock Nelson’s first period power-play goal placed him in sole possession of 10th place all-time on the Islanders franchise playoff goal-scoring list, passing Daune Sutter…Mathew Barzal’s third period goal was his fifth in his last six games.
Game 3 — Thursday June 17th Islanders vs Lightning at Nassau Coliseum at 8pm(EST).
TV: USA, TVAS, CBC, SN
Radio: 88.7FM WRHU