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This 2-1 deficit seems a bit more daunting for Islanders

Brayden Point #21 of the Tampa Bay Lightning

Brayden Point #21 of the Tampa Bay Lightning scores a second period goal against Semyon Varlamov #40 of the Islanders in Game Three of the Semifinals of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Nassau Coliseum on Thursday, June 17, 2021. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Not all 2-1 series deficits are created equal, and this one feels different from the other two the Islanders have faced.

Sure, they are capable of coming back against the Lightning even after a 2-1 loss on Thursday night in Game 3 of their Stanley Cup semifinal at Nassau Coliseum, just as they did against the Penguins and Bruins after losing Game 3s at home.

But despite playing the defending Cup champions mostly evenly in defeat, it will be a daunting task to win three of the next four — let alone three in a row, as they did in the first two rounds.

"As you go along this path and you go deeper and deeper, the teams are better and better," coach Barry Trotz said, "and you have to dig in harder and harder."

Adding to the gloomy mood was that the Lightning showed they have defensive mettle to go along with their offensive firepower.

They frustrated the Islanders for long stretches by blocking shots and limiting good chances, and when all else failed, they relied on their goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy.

In short, the Lightning played with a lead a lot like the Islanders often do.

"We were putting pucks toward the net," Casey Cizikas said. "We’ve got to find a way to, I guess, get it around that first guy."

Said Trotz, "There wasn’t much room out there."

Again, if Tampa Bay can combine its elite offensive skills with shutdown defense, the Islanders will have a rocky road to their first Cup Final since 1984.

The Coliseum fans were into it from the start, as usual, with a near-capacity crowd of about 13,000 in the house.

The recent tradition of singing the national anthem en masse began the festivities, and the fun continued with the usual array of activities.

The fans sang about Josh Bailey. They sang about Jean-Gabriel Pageau. They chanted "Uncle Leo" Komarov’s name as well as Semyon Varlamov’s.

The Jets’ Dan Feeney did what he does, chugging a beer and then smashing the can against his head while being shown on the video board.

But then things took a wrong turn for the home team.

It came at 10:05 of the first period. Blake Coleman collected the rebound of his own shot and threw a blind pass in front of the net that caromed off Nick Leddy’s skate to Yanni Gourde, who buried it from a sharp angle.

The Islanders turned it on in the second period, coming at the Lightning net in waves. Their hard work paid off when Cal Clutterbuck tied it at 17:01, shoving in a loose puck off Matt Martin’s rebound.

The good feelings did not last long. Adam Pelech was called for a highly questionable interference penalty against Nikita Kucherov. "I didn’t think there was much there," Trotz said.

Seconds after the penalty expired, Brayden Point scored his league-best 11th goal of the playoffs while falling to his knees after being pushed from behind by Cizikas. The score came with 17.4 seconds remaining in the period and figured to be an emotional blow to the Islanders.

"We’re a veteran team," Martin said. "I think we try to brush off anything that comes our way through the course of a game. It was a big goal, obviously, at the time to tie the game."

The Islanders generated some chances in the third but were unable to solve Vasilevskiy, the best goalie they have faced in the playoffs to date. That’s another reason for concern.

So the Islanders have played three series and on each occasion split the first two games on the road and lost Game 3 at home. What is up with that?

"I wish I could tell you," Trotz said. "I have no answer for you. It’s just the way it goes."

Game 4 is Saturday night, with no room for error. Coming back from a 2-1 deficit? Been there, done that. But 3-1? That would be a very bad idea.

New York Sports