When you get down to eight teams, hockey becomes a game of inches.
The New York Islanders feel they lost Game 4 by that margin, falling to the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 in overtime, now trailing the series 3-1.
Jason Garrison scored the OT winner 1:34 into the extra frame, again leaving the Islanders feeling like they had been the better team for at least a majority of the contest.
“I thought we outplayed them most of the game,” said Kyle Okposo. “They made some plays and got some timely goals.”
Okposo had the Islanders up 1-0 early on a power-play goal and they held that lead for most of the contest. But like Game 3, another game where they felt they played well enough to win, the Lightning scored a third period goal sending the game to overtime.
“They were probably our two best games of the playoffs,” Matt Martin said. “When you let teams hang around, they find ways to come back.”
Nikita Kucherov tied the game at one 7:49 into the third period, beating Thomas Greiss with a slap shot, short side. Kucherov and Garrison were the Lightning goal scorers, but the real culprit on this night was the Islanders inability to convert on their chances.
“Scoring one goal against this team it's going to be tough [to win], but I was pleased with the effort the guys put forth tonight,” head coach Jack Capuano said.
John Tavares hit a post, Okposo was denied on a two-on-one rush with Tavares and Ben Bishop plugged enough holes in the Lightning dam to keep the Islanders from breaking through. The Islanders also had a golden opportunity in the first period, when Ryan Callahan took a four-minute roughing minor, but were unable to convert on the long man advantage.
“Especially four minutes you want to try to take advantage early in the game,” said Ryan Strome, who was back in the lineup after being scratched in Game 3. “We have to capitalize. They are such a good team that we aren’t going to get too many of these opportunities.”
Greiss made 20 saves in the loss, while Bishop made 27 saves in the win. The Islanders peppered Bishop early as they outshot the Lightning 16-5 in the first period, with Tampa coach Jon Cooper saying Bishop “saved” his team.
With the loss, the Islanders head down to Tampa for Game 5 facing elimination for the first time. The Islanders spoke of their resiliency after the game and said the objective is clear now.
“Nothing needs to be said, we know what has to be done now,” Shane Prince said. “We have to win three straight and it starts next game in Tampa.”
The comeback starts Sunday at 3 p.m.; one inch at a time.
NOTES: JF Berube made his NHL playoff debut Friday, playing 4:47 in the second period while Greiss was deal with a skate issue. Berube made two saves, both shorthanded.
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Okposo on Islanders' Game 4 Loss: You Have to Work For Your Breaks
Greiss on Islanders' Game 4 Loss: It's Disappointing
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