For an organization that prides itself on being a four-line team, the Islanders seemingly only had two in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup semifinal series against the Lightning — and it was the bottom six.
As the Islanders lost 2-1 on Thursday night in the first semifinal game Nassau Coliseum has hosted since 1993, it was quite evident that it’s going to take a lot more skill and manpower to overcome the Lightning. With the victory, Tampa Bay swung the series 2-1 in their favor heading into Game 4 on Saturday night back at The Barn.
Trailing 1-0 at the start of the second, the Islanders weren’t very active to start the period but then hit a spurt of momentum. After a handful of dangerous chances, including one where Mathew Barzal flung 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 seemingly tried to put the puck under goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy’s pads, but Cal 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. 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 generated a few opportunities to pull even again. They outshot the Lightning 4-0 through the first 8:47, but nothing came of it. Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov was pulled with 1:49 left in regulation, but the Lightning didn’t give up any real looks.
Both teams saw stretches of opportunities through the opening 20 minutes, but the Lightning had the better of them. The Islanders struggled to break out of their zone at times and the Lightning looked way too comfortable when they had possession in their offensive end.
While every block, hit, and Islanders’ rush was met with an explosion from the crowd, Tampa Bay still managed to emerge with a lead after the first.
As fans began to shout a profanity-laced chant, Blake Coleman backhanded a pass off Nick Leddy’s skates that went right to Yanni Gourde, who put it in from a sharp angle for the 1-0 lead at 10:05.