A 4-1 loss was not the result the Islanders wanted in Game 2 on Saturday afternoon in Tampa Bay, but they will at least head home with their series tied at one.
Nikolay Kulemin scored his first goal of the playoffs, but that was all the offense the Islanders could muster on Saturday. Tyler Johnson’s three-point night (2G, 1A) led the way for the Lightning, who struck the Islanders early and protected their lead for the rest of the way.
“These aren’t going to be easy games,” Kulemin said. “We saw today, they play hard and we need to be better next game.”
Tampa scored on two of their first four shots and their attack came in waves in the first period, offering no relief for the Islanders.
When they negated a chance, as Travis Hamonic did when he caught Nikita Kucherov on a breakaway and turned the play up the ice, the Lightning came right back. Shortly after Hamonic’s good defensive effort on Kucherov, Ondrej Palat carried the puck into the Isles’ zone and fed a streaking Tyler Johnson, who backhanded a shot past Thomas Greiss at 6:03.
Penalties defined the first period, as the Lightning took three minors, turning two successful kills into momentum. The Islanders only had one shot on their first two power plays and shortly after the second Jonathan Drouin gave the Lightning a 2-0 lead backhanding his first of the playoffs past Greiss at 11:55.
“They are pretty aggressive,” John Tavares said of the Lightning’s penalty kill. “Mostly it’s looking ourselves in the mirror and we have to be sharper moving the puck.”
The Lightning’s propensity for taking penalties eventually opened the door for the Islanders, who got on the board with 4:45 to play in the period. Thomas Hickey stutter-stepped Cedric Paquette, putting a half-slapper on net that Kulemin tipped past Ben Bishop at 15:15.
Special teams played a factor in the second period as well, as the Lightning used a power play to take a 3-1 lead, as Victor Hedman’s point shot deflected off an Islanders’ skate and past Thomas Greiss at 11:59.
Armed with a two-goal lead, the Lightning clamped down in the third period, holding the Islanders to three shots. Johnson’s empty-netter with 2:18 to play sealed it, with the teams getting chippy with eachother in the waning minutes.
While the Islanders only managed 20 shots on Saturday, Ben Bishop was a much better obstacle, negating some early chances, including a point-blank save on Casey Cizikas, shortly before Drouin’s goal. Greiss made 27 saves on Saturday and kept the Islanders within striking distance in the third period.
“He’s played really well in these playoffs, especially down the stretch in the regular season,” Capuano said of Greiss. “I’m sure he’d like to have [Drouin’s] goal back, but at the end of the day, you have to have a short memory and bounce back on Tuesday night.”
With the split, the Islanders have taken home-ice advantage back from the Lightning and can win the series just by winning their games at Barclays Center. Game 3 goes on Tuesday night at 7 p.m.
CAPUANO: ISLANDERS DIDN'T CHALLENGE BISHOP ENOUGH
NIELSEN ON GAME 2 LOSS: ISLANDERS GOT TO BE BETTER
GREISS DISCUSSES GAME 2 PERFORMANCE IN ISLANDERS' LOSS
TAVARES: ISLANDERS HAVE TO FIND A WAY TO GET SECOND AND THIRD OPPORTUNITIES
KULEMIN: ISLANDERS NEED TO PLAY MUCH CLEANER AND SMARTER