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Tavares disappointed with 'brutal' loss

Islanders center shut down again in Game 5, held scoreless in final four against Lightning

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

TAMPA -- New York Islanders captain John Tavares didn't mince words to describe the way his season ended Sunday.

"Brutal," Tavares said after a 4-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena that wrapped up the Eastern Conference Second Round in five games.

It was a rough finish for Tavares and the Islanders, who lost four games in row following a 5-3 win in Game 1. They controlled the play in Games 3 and 4 at Barclays Center, only to lose each in overtime.

But Sunday was a different story. Tavares, who had a goal and an assist in Game 1, was held without a point for a fourth straight game. He had a total of two shots on goal over the last two games of the series.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper got the matchups he wanted being back at home for Game 5, which meant Tavares saw plenty of Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman, who arguably emerged as a candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy in this series. Hedman scored twice in Game 5 and had eight points against the Islanders, four times as many as Tavares.

"You're going to get that when you're on the road," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "It doesn't stop Johnny. Johnny competes, whether it's the Olympics, or whether it's going to be the World Cup, Johnny's going to be matched against top players. I thought Hedman and (Braydon) Coburn and their 'D' did a really good job … (Jason) Garrison, (Andrej) Sustr … all their 'D.' I thought they were physical, I thought their forwards were physical on the forecheck. They played a hard game.

"You don't want to go dry at this time of the year, but you look at Games 3 and 4 and the opportunities that we had to score goals, the 2-on-1s and a couple of other chances that we had that could have turned the series the other way. But we can't look back. They played a great series. If there's one thing that you have to look back at it, it's the ability and the effectiveness to get some offense."

Video: NYI@TBL, Gm5: Lightning advance to ECF with 4-0 win

It was an unfortunate turn of events for Tavares, who was dominant in the first round against the Florida Panthers but couldn't get the better of Hedman after Game 1. The Islanders did manage to reach the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 1993, but that wasn't something Tavares was interested in taking solace in after the season-ending loss.

"No, not really," Tavares said. "I think what's fresh in your mind is obviously getting knocked out five minutes ago. It's just disappointing not getting to where we wanted to get to. It was great to clear one of those hurdles, but it's not good enough for us. The expectation's high. We want to go a lot further than just winning in the first round.

"There's a lot of bright spots. Obviously you don't get to the final eight without doing some good things and guys stepping up. It's just tough right now when you lose and we don't move on."

It was a finish nobody could have predicted after the Islanders opened the series in impressive fashion in this building. It was a string of games for Tavares that will leave him wondering what went wrong. He'll have four months to think about it.

"It's hard to believe it's over," Tavares said. "You put a lot into it. We didn't accomplish what we set out do. Tough way to go out."

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