This was a complete and utter meltdown; plain and simple. This is not how it was supposed to go down. The Islanders had a plan and had adhered to it through the first two rounds of the playoffs. But now the team has it’s back against the wall as both its season and its beloved Coliseum home are on the chopping block. Nobody wants to say good-bye to The Old Barn or to this Islanders season, but unless the team can pull off another stirring comeback, both will come to an end Wednesday night; a double dose of heartbreak that needs to be avoided at all costs.
Monday night, inside Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida, the Islanders were beaten pillar to post by the Lightning as a three-goal first period paved the way for their eventual 8-0 Game Five loss. The Nassaumen now head home to Long Island hoping against hope that they’ll be boarding another flight to Florida for Game Seven Friday night.
Andy Greene, Ryan Pulock, Leo Komarov, J.G. Pageau, Travis Zajac, Kyle Palmieri, Mathew Barzal and the rest of the Isles skaters hung Semyon Varlamov out to dry in the first period as they surrendered eight odd-man rushes and three goals before Ilya Sorokin was called upon by Head Coach Barry Trotz in an attempt to wake up his team 15:27 into the game.
Tampa generated four shots on goal in the first 45-seconds of the game; the last of which was actually a deflected shot by Alex Killorn that bounced right to the stick of Steven Stamkos, who buried the loose puck past an out of position Semyon Varlamov for the quick 1-0 Lightning lead.
The early deficit was no surprise to the Nassaumen as they have unfortunately gotten used to this occurrence during these playoffs. Head Coach Barry Trotz responded by immediately switching up his first and third lines again, flipping Leo Komarov and Kyle Palmieri; just like he did in the second period of Game Four.
The unit of Palmieri-Mathew Barzal-Jordan Eberle led the Isles to their first shot of the game 7:04 into the first period.
That was the lone “bright spot” for the Boys from Long Island in the opening half of the first period as Tampa’s attack came in waves. The Islanders were unable to escape their zone on more than one occasion and with 11:04 gone by, Komarov and J.G. Pageau combined to cough up the puck at the blue line. Yanni Gourde then went streaking to the net and his pass, intended for Barclay Goodrow, deflected off Andy Greene and darted past Varlamov for the 2-0 Lightning lead.
In the moments that followed, Varlamov did his best to keep the Isles in the game as he made multiple saves off Tampa’s repeated odd-man rushes. But try as Varlamov did, the Islanders were beaten all over the ice throughout the first period.
At 15:27 of the first, another odd-man rush by Tampa dissolved into a scramble in front of Varlamov and Killorn poked the puck into the net for the 3-0 Tampa lead. At that point, Barry Trotz had no choice, he pulled Varlamov for Ilya Sorokin, just to attempt to change the tide of the game. The results prior to Varlamov’s removal would have been worse if not for his efforts, so this wasn’t on him. Sorokin was in to send a message to the rest of the team.
Again, not a single bit of what unfolded was Varlamov’s fault. A team known for its tight system and defensive structure inexplicably broke down and hung its goalie out to dry.
Sorokin did not allow a goal during the rest of the first period and the Nassaumen headed into the first intermission down 3-0.
The Isles came out at the start of the second period and went on the attack as Tampa was caught in a bad change early. Brock Nelson had an open net to shoot at and missed before his teammates hit the post behind Andrei vasilevskiy three times on the following sequence.
Unfortunately, that brief burst of momentum was squashed when Nelson was called for hooking Jan Rutta at 4:44 of the middle period. On the ensuing Tampa power-play, Sorokin took a shot up high to the throat and needed brief medical attention before convincing the training staff he could stay in the game.
Seconds after play resumed, Stamkos one-timed the puck past Sorokin for his second goal of the night to make it 4-0 Lightning 5:42 into the second period.
An interference penalty by Cal Clutterbuck against Ondrej Palat in the offensive zone gave Tampa their second power-play of the game at the 9:33 mark of the middle period. The Nassaumen killed off the penalty but that was little consolation when you remembered they were down 4-0 in the game.
Seconds after Clutterbuck was released from the box, Kyle Palmieri was sent to take his place as Palmieri was called for tripping Blake Coleman in the defensive zone to give the Lightning their third power-play of the period.
The Islanders killed the penalty, but they were still staring at a 4-0 deficit with 4:53 left in the second period. Tampa made it 5-0 on a goal from Ondrej Palat with 4:17 left in the period.
Tensions boiled over moments later as Matt Martin and Luke Schenn dropped the gloves after Vasilevskiy was bumped into in the crease. Martin won the brief fistisuffs. Then, J.G. Pageau tripped Victor Hedman and was sent to the box for Tampa’s fourth power-play of the period. And, of course, Hedman scored seconds into the power-play off a deflected shot to make it 6-0 Tampa. (The puck may have been tipped by Killorn at the last second).
Ryan McDonagh then caught Brock Nelson up high to send the Isles to their first power-play of the game, but that was quickly negated when the second period came to a close and Mathew Barzal viciously cross-checked Jan Rutta in the face. Rutta went down and needed medical attention as Barzal was assessed a major penalty and a game-misconduct to end the Isles power-play and put his team on the penalty-kill to start the third period; after a brief four-on-four.
In the third period, after the four-on-four skating had subsided, Brayden Point did what he does best, score goals. His power-play goal at 1:59 of the final period made it 7-0 Tampa and served as yet another exclamation point on what a disastrous night it was for the Islanders.
By the way, Point’s goal extended his goal-scoring streak to eight-straight games, only the second player in NHL playoff history to do so. (Reggie Leach in 1976 had a 10-game streak).
A Luke Schenn goal that deflected off Ryan Pulock’s skates 12:05 into the third period completed the scoring as Tampa won 8-0.
A fracas broke out with 3:30 to go after Goodrow cross-checked Casey Cizikas. That only served to heighten tensions even further as the Islanders will look to have selectively short-memories ahead of Wednesday night’s Game Six.
Buckle up Islanders fans, Game Six is less than 48-hours away and you could be without your most dynamic playmaker, Barzal, who might be suspended by The NHL for his cross-check against Rutta. Whether he’s suspended or not, the Isles face a do-or-die situation in Game Six and they’ll be counting on their terrific home-ice advantage to help them stave off elimination; at least for one game.
The Isles went 0-for-2 on the power-play to go to 1-for-13 in the series and 10-for-45 in the playoffs…The Isles went 2-for-5 on the penalty-kill to go to 9-for-14 in the series and 25-for-40 in the playoffs…The Islanders surrendered eight odd-man rushes in the first period…Semyon Varlamov was yanked 15:27 into the game for Ilya Sorokin…Ilya Sorokin gave up five-goals in relief…Mathew Barzal was ejected at the end of the second period for cross-checking Jan Rutta.
Game 6 — Wednesday June 23rd Islanders vs Lightning at Nassau Coliseum at 8pm(EST).
TV: NBCSN, TVAS, CBC, SN
Radio: 88.7FM WRHU