The Islanders may have lost more than just Game 1 of their Eastern Conference final series against the Lightning.
Coach Barry Trotz had no update on Cal Clutterbuck after Monday night’s 8-2 loss to Tampa Bay at Rogers Place in Edmonton. Now it’s a waiting game to see if the gritty right wing will be available for Wednesday night’s Game 2.
“You always get consistent play from him,” Trotz said.
Clutterbuck, a key penalty-killer, blocked defenseman Mikhail Sergachev’s power-play shot at 11:50 of the second period and hobbled to the Islanders’ dressing room.
He limped back to the bench shortly after the start of the third period but soon retreated to the dressing room again.
“We’ve got a lot of guys willing to sacrifice the body for the betterment of the team, and he showed that there,” linemate Matt Martin said. “He’s a key player for us. Hopefully he’ll be all right and ready to go in a couple of days.”
The Lightning had 34 shots on net and 12 attempts blocked. But, remarkably, they attempted only one shot that missed the net, and that didn’t come until 67 seconds remained in the game.
“I think we can get on them quicker,” defenseman Nick Leddy said. “We can take away their time and space and maybe force them to make a quicker decision.”
Isles already winners, in a way
In a way, the Islanders already are the last team remaining.
They opened the Eastern Conference finals against the Lightning on Monday night at Rogers Place in Edmonton and were the only one of the 16 teams to participate in a playoff qualifying series to reach the NHL’s final four.
The West’s finalists, the Stars and the Golden Knights, along with the Lightning, were all among the top four seeds in their conference and played in a round-robin for seeding rather than a best-of-five elimination series to earn a berth in the 16-team playoffs.
“You can take some personal pride, we had to go through an extra round,” Trotz said. “We’re the only one to do that. We’ll take it for a badge of honor, not that it’s worth anything. But it is understanding it’s part of the process you have to go through. It will help the team and the organization going forward."
Lightning coach Jon Cooper, who graduated Hofstra in 1989, recounted the many Islanders’ games he saw at Nassau Coliseum while in college.
“Nassau Coliseum was rocking then,” said Cooper, who played lacrosse in college. “The Isles were coming off four Stanley Cups and the Islanders’ era was changing a little bit. But they were so much fun, the games, to go to. As poor college students, we’d sit up in those top rows. The way beer prices are in arenas now, I don’t know if we could have gone to as many games.”
The NHL reported a sixth straight week of zero positive COVID-19 tests in its playoff bubbles. There were 2,534 tests administered last week.
Trotz made one lineup change, inserting burly Ross Johnston onto the third line for Michael Dal Colle, with Leo Komarov remaining out of the lineup. Johnston, who last played in Game 2 against the Flyers, logged 8:34 with a 10-minute misconduct in the third period. . . Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov became the first players to ever have five points in a playoff game against the Islanders.