When New Yorkers don’t make it difficult for the opposition, they make it difficult for themselves.
For the third straight playoff series, the Islanders lost their service at home, losing 2-1 Thursday to the Tampa Bay Lightning after splitting the first two games of the Stanley Cup semifinal in Florida.
The Islanders did the same in the first round against the Pittsburgh Penguins and again in the last round against the Boston Bruins, losing Game 3 at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum after bringing the series home at 1-1.
In both cases, New York leveled off and had three straight wins to advance six games. The Penguins and Bruins are excellent teams in the National Hockey League, but the Lightning are on another level. Tampa didn’t win the Stanley Cup last fall by accident.
Sure, the Lightning have fascinating ability at the top of the lineup, but the team also knows how to defend against the world’s best goalkeeper, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and can close out 2-1 games. Tampa is very experienced and cunning. There is some steel in the Lightning.
These are also traits that helped the islanders go this far, but now they need something more. New York coach Barry Pese said he was “looking forward to it” after the Islanders lost Game 2 4-2 in Tampa on Tuesday, and while he did not repeat that assessment Thursday, his team was again not in their league. best moment.
The 12,978 Long Island fans, who celebrate each additional playoff game at the Coliseum before the Islanders move a little west next season, didn’t have much to shout about. His team was unable to fuel his energy, falling behind in the middle of a first period in which the islanders appeared slow and nervous. The Lightning led 47 of the final 50 minutes and has regained service in the series. Game four is Saturday.
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The Islanders outscored the Penguins in Round 1 despite Mathew Barzal and his front row not producing as expected. The Josh Bailey-Brock Nelson-Anthony Beauvillier unit did most of the offensive damage for New York.
But that trio was ineffective again on Thursday and Beauvillier, especially, looks suddenly lost amid the intensity of the semifinal. In a game in which total shot attempts were 62-52 for the Islanders, Bailey, Beauvillier and Nelson were outshot 8-2 with equal strength. That was a total of two shots at the net for three of the Islanders’ best offensive forwards.
Beauvillier is goalless and has two assists in his last seven games after scoring 10 points in New York’s first eight playoff games.
“He’s a good player,” Pese said. “Obviously, they are playing it very well. They are playing against our best guys, which makes it difficult. You have to fight for inches. I mean, it’s no different than (when) I think Barzy fought early in the playoffs because he wasn’t willing to fight for those inches and he wasn’t doing much. I think right now, Beau has to find a way to fight for more inches. That’s all. “
Barzal has been excellent since the beginning of the Boston series, but the Islanders need all of their players to have a chance to dethrone Rayo.
Fearful of a lethal power play from Tampa that has already scored 17 goals in the playoffs, even though it managed to convince its players not to get carried away by the post-whistle scrums and wrestling matches that characterized Game 2 .
Although it is true that the Islanders cannot afford to make this a special team series. But it also appeared Thursday that the lack of threat and outright animosity may have kept the Islanders from fully taking on the Lightning physically. And it certainly didn’t help the energy level of a crowd that was amplified every time there was a big hit or a skirmish.
There’s a fine line in the middle of Pese’s call for restraint: They can’t afford unnecessary penalties, but they can’t afford to lower their fitness level either. The islanders are better when they hit the opposition.
“I think we’re a pretty physically committed team,” heavyweight winger Matt Martin said after the game, his own obvious restraint in the opening period when he didn’t respond to shoving after a couple of whistles. “That is what makes us successful.
“There are momentum shifts throughout the course of a hockey game where you try to regain that momentum by reaffirming that physicality and being tough on them and getting zone time. I think you can always be more physical, but it’s certainly not easy. They have good players and they are going to make plays and break our pressure at times. “
Although he didn’t like the jamming call to Adam Pelech that led to the Lightning’s only power play, and it sure looked like game management by the umpires when the defender received a whistle for a moving play over Nikita Kucherov very far from the disk about three minutes. after Tampa’s Mikhail Sergachev was penalized for rudeness.
After being knocked down, Brayden Point swept the puck between the pads of Islanders goalkeeper Semyon Varlamov for the game winner at 7:40 p.m. of the second period, two seconds after Pelech’s penalty expired.
SET OF INCHES
There are many things the islanders need to do to beat Rayo. Some rebounds would help.
Yanni Gourde opened the scoring for the Lightning at 10:05 of the first when a cross pass from Blake Coleman bounced off the skate of Islanders defender Nick Leddy and directly to the scorer on the far side of the slot.
“It’s funny,” said Pese, “as you go down this path, you go deeper and deeper, the teams get better and better, and you have to dig harder and harder.
“At the end of the day, it’s a pretty close game. They just took an opportunity in a kind of fight at the end of a power play. It is a fine line between winning or losing. It’s a game of inches right now. “
Jean-Gabriel Pageau is playing hurt, but the impressive two-way center who leads the Islanders in scoring while consistently drawing the toughest matchups remains one of New York’s best players on Thursday.
Pageau’s ice time of 16:32 was slightly below his playoff average, but he and linemates Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri beat the Point-Kucherov-Ondrej Palat line head-to-head. Pageau finished with three shots and three hits.
A Patrice Bergeron Lite, Pageau may be one of the best players few people know.