The New York Islanders entered Sunday’s Game 5 with hopes of forcing a Game 6 in Brooklyn on Tuesday night, but the lofty goals of a series comeback proved too high, as the Lightning beat the Islanders 4-0, taking their best-of-seven series in five games.
Game. Set. Season - the end of the Islanders best one since 1993.
“It’s brutal,” John Tavares said. “It’s hard to believe it’s over. You put a lot into it. We didn’t accomplish what we set out to do and it’s a tough way to go out.”
Ben Bishop made 28 saves for the shutout, Victor Hedman scored a pair of goals in the first and second periods, Brian Boyle scored at the end of the first and Nikita Kucherov rounded out the scoring in the third. But while they combined to win the clincher in Game 5, the Islanders felt that that the two losses in Brooklyn – in which they had a pair of third-period leads – really lost the series.
“To lose both of those games at home, it was definitely disheartening,” Kyle Okposo said. “But we threw everything at them today, they just made a few more plays than we did.”
Before the game, head coach Jack Capuano reunited Tavares, Okposo and Frans Nielsen in hopes of kickstarting the Islanders offense. He had precedent, as the Islanders’ hero line was united on April 4 in a 5-2 win over the Lightning and finished the season on a hot streak. But even putting the Islanders top three scorers – playoffs and regular season – together wasn’t enough for the Islanders on this day.
“You don’t want to go dry at this time of the year,” Capuano said. “We couldn’t find a way here in the last few games to score some goals.”
With blue bracelets flickering and Tesla coils providing makeshift lightning, the Islanders appeared to weather the early surge in Tampa Bay. Both teams had chances in the opening 10 minutes, but Hedman’s opening goal, a fling through traffic at 13:49, put the onus on the Islanders to get the next one. Instead, Tampa took a 2-0 lead, as Boyle took a drop pass behind the net, skated out and beat Greiss high at 18:41. Hedman put a dent in the Islanders comeback with his second goal – another shot through traffic, this time on the power play – at 4:22 and Kucherov bolted the door at 4:40 of the third.
“We got off to an okay start, but they came hard,” Tavares said. “They capitalized on a couple opportunities, it put us behind and gave them a lot of life.”
The emotions were still raw in the Islanders’ room after the loss. Their accomplishments of a second 100-point season and advancing past the first round were no consolation in the immediate aftermath. But like last season in Washington, there are lessons to be learned. Last year it was how to get out of the first round, this year could potentially be the lesson on how to get out of the second.
“Advancing out of the second round is a tough thing to do,” Travis Hamonic said. “As a group we have to learn from this experience.”
Tavares acknowledged the Islanders did some good things this season, but the competitive captain wasn’t satisfied on the final day of the season. He too said the games in Brooklyn slipped away. He too knows the Islanders have more in them and he gets the last word.
“You don’t get to the final eight without doing some good things,” Tavares said. “That’s not good enough for us. The expectations are high. We want to go a lot further.”
Capuano: I'm Proud of the Islanders For Getting To This Point
Tavares: Winning One Round Is Not Good Enough For Islanders
Hamonic: I Love Being An Islander More Than Anything
Martin: I Don't Know What Future With Islanders Holds
Nielsen on Game 5 Loss & Future With Islanders
Greiss After Islanders' Game 5 Loss: It's Been a Crazy & Fun Ride