TAMPA, Fla. — Even after perhaps the most lethargic first period since the last lockout, with the Islanders mustering three total shot attempts, the Isles were right in this one with the Lightning on Tuesday night after a furious 14 minutes in the second period.
They rallied to make it a 2-2 game and were applying all the pressure. But the Islanders stubbed their momentum out with two penalties in the final minutes of the second and surrendered goals on both, sandwiched around another Lightning score.
Three goals in 2:24 and poof, it was over. The 6-2 loss began with the Lightning’s fiery start, but it didn’t fully engulf the Islanders until that late flurry in the second that now has Thomas Greiss scratching his head and Doug Weight trying to figure out a fix for the Isles’ penalty kill, which has allowed seven goals in the last 13 power plays.
“We felt like the game was over with six minutes left in the second,” Weight said with a bit of bewilderment after the bizarre game. “We flipped the switch in the second and probably gave it to them more than they gave it to us in the first. Then we take a couple penalties and we can’t kill a penalty anymore.”
All three of those goals late in the second looked the same, rebound chances within a couple feet of Greiss. Jason Chimera took a roughing minor at 14:51 of the second in a tie game; on the power play, Mikhail Sergachev’s point shot banked off the end wall and right out front where Yanni Gourde jammed it home at 16:22.
Gourde was in the right spot again to put a rebound back with Brock Nelson wobbling and not keeping Gourde tied up at 17:56. Then, with Anders Lee in the box, Greiss turned aside Nikita Kucherov’s blast and Vlad Namestnikov, unmolested by Adam Pelech, slammed that rebound home at 18:46.
“We’ve got to bear down on those sticks in close — tie ‘em up, break ‘em, whatever you need to do,” Scott Mayfield said. “They have a lot of little guys who try to sneak in there and fight for space and we just need to be tougher there.”
Greiss is as easy-going as they come for goaltenders but he seemed to be at a loss for words after giving up six goals on the heels of being pulled for allowing five in 32 minutes on Friday against Ottawa. Greiss’ numbers look like vintage 1980s goaltender stats: An 8-3-2 record but a 3.78 goals-against average and .900 save percentage.
“You give up four, five, six a game, you’re not being very helpful,” Greiss said. “Gotta pick it up.”
Mathew Barzal seemingly had the pick-me-up the Islanders needed after that lackluster first, with the Lightning up 2-0 on goals by Brayden Point 34 seconds into the game and Andrej Sustr.
Barzal hit the post on a power play in the second but retrieved the puck, revved into the zone and flipped a backhand home at 7:07. On his next shift, he froze the Tampa defense before sliding a feed to Jordan Eberle at 8:58 for an improbably tied game.
Too bad it didn’t last. The Islanders have some fixing up to do before they face the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Thursday, starting with a better start and a more complete game.
“We just weren’t ready to play,” Eberle said. “We woke up in the second but then three quick ones and they were all over us. You make one mistake against a team like that and they can capitalize quickly.”