TAMPA — The Islanders’ trip back to Florida for Game 5 was always going to be a brief one, but that didn’t mean they had to travel as lightly as they did.
It was clear from the moment the teams hit the ice Monday night at Amalie Arena, the Isles didn’t bring their usual aggressive play in the neutral zone, they forgot their defensive structure and must have accidentally left their energy back on Long Island, as the Lightning coasted to an 8-0 victory.
The Lightning, now leading the Stanley Cup semifinal series 3-2 after scoring 10 unanswered goals dating back to Game 4, have an opportunity to zap the Islanders out of the playoffs in Game 6 at Nassau Coliseum for potentially the last time Wednesday night.
It was a game that will go down in franchise history for all the wrong reasons. The 8-0 score was the largest margin of defeat the Islanders had ever endured in the playoffs. It was also the first time they were shut out this postseason.
There was no question it just wasn’t the Isles’ night. To further confirm it, the Islanders clanked two shots off the post and one off the side of the net in a single shift to start the second period. Nick Leddy sent a shot from the top of the zone that hit iron before Josh Bailey’s backhanded rebound attempt went off the other post. Brock Nelson then tried to flip the puck over Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who was sprawled out flat on the ice, but it went right into the twine.
That’s when the Islanders’ frustrations became too overwhelming to play through. After managing to stay out of the box in the first period, the Islanders racked up 13 penalty minutes during play in the middle frame.
The Lightning capitalized on two of their four power-play opportunities, which sandwiched an Ondrej Palat tip-in at 15:43 of the second to make it a 6-0 game heading into the third. But the Islanders had to take on the final frame without star center Mathew Barzal, who cross-checked Tampa Bay defenseman Jan Rutta in the head at the conclusion of the second and got tossed from the game.
To cap off the night, Brayden Point extended his scoring streak to eight games with a power-play goal before Luke Schenn flung a long shot from the top of the zone that ricocheted in off Ryan Pulock’s skate in the third period.
Tripping over themselves into a 3-0 hole after the first period, the Islanders never had a chance to get back into the game. Forty-five seconds in, a rare turnover from Adam Pelech led to a Tampa Bay rush that ended with Steven Stamkos burying his first of two goals on the night.
The Islanders’ defensive breakdowns just kept coming, with Yanni Gourde banking a pass, intended for Barclay Goodrow, off a diving Andy Greene and in for a 2-0 lead at 11:04 of the first.
Less than five minutes later, Alex Killorn was finally able to get one past Isles goalie Semyon Varlamov, who had robbed the Tampa Bay winger several times throughout the series, on a rebound put-back. The Lightning’s third strike sent Varlamov to the bench after he had allowed three goals on 15 shots, bringing in rookie Ilya Sorokin.
The Islanders have had their fair share of rocky first periods this postseason, but Monday’s was easily their sloppiest 20 minutes to start a game. Giving up eight odd-man rushes, the Isles lost Game 5 in the first.