The Islanders walked into Nassau Coliseum with the series tied and a chance to take a 3-1 lead against the Tampa Bay Lightning. However, just like the Lightning in their home set, they walked away with a split and an even series at two games a piece. Game 3 was a close 2-1 loss and Game 4 was a 3-2 win that came down to the final shot.
The Islanders simply got beat at their own game in the game three loss. This was mainly because the Lightning were outstanding playing in their own zone. They had a total of 21 blocked shots and also played aggressively on the forecheck. Despite this the Islanders still got 28 shots on net, but Andrei Vasilevskiy was fantastic as usual. Yanni Gourde got the opening goal for the Lightning off a good cross pass from Blake Coleman. The lone Islanders goal came in the second period from Cal Clutterbuck right in front of the net after a mistake by Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak. But a Brayden Point goal just after a power play in the same period proved to be the game winner for the Lightning. This was a really impressive goal as Point scored it in the midst of being checked by Casey Cizikas.
The problem for the Islanders in this game was the man advantage. The Islanders had a power play in the second period, but nothing came of it. They’re now only 1/8 on the power play throughout this series. One of their most prevalent problems on the power play is that they’re too passive. They pass the puck around a lot looking for the perfect shot, which often leads to turnovers when the opposing team is forechecking. The Islanders also had the man advantage when they pulled Semyon Varlamov for the six on five. That attempt was also passive and additionally very sloppy, with the Islanders barely able to keep the puck in their own zone. All in all, the Islanders need to organize more aggressive, consistent power plays to try and beat a very talented goalie in Vasilevskiy going forward.
This game was much better for the Islanders offense, but it nearly ended in disaster. The entirety of the Islanders offensive attack came during a three goal second period. This period showed how a shoot first mentality can really help this team. Josh Bailey was first, taking a nice feed from Brock Nelson and sniping by Vasilevskiy. Then Mat Barzal scored off a rebound left from an Adam Pelech shot. And lastly Matt Martin also scored off a rebound from a Cal Clutterbuck tip attempt. But the Lightning came back strong to start the third.
Within the first half of the third, Brayden Point and Tyler Johnson scored to make it 3-2. Barry Trotz called a timeout after Johnson’s goal and it seemed to help the Islanders a lot. They were solid the rest of the period, limiting quality opportunities for the Lightning and keeping the puck in their own zone. The game seemed to be over once Victor Hedman took a tripping penalty with under two minutes left. But after a solid minute of playing keep away from the Lightning, disaster nearly struck.
Just before the buzzer, Ryan McDonagh got an opportunity right in front of Varlamov. Instead of just shooting it, he spun around a lunging Brock Nelson and held it. With Varlamov completely out of the net, McDonagh had a wide open net to tie the game. But in came Ryan Pulock, who guided the puck away from the net to secure the Islanders win. Both defenseman made incredibly smart plays in that sequence, but Ryan Pulock’s was ultimately the game changer. The Islanders now, for the third straight time, are heading on the road with the series tied. The Islanders have to replicate their offensive attack from this game if they hope to come back to the Nassau Coliseum with a 3-2 lead.
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