Everyone knew the Tampa Bay Lightning were going to have to turn up their intensity in Game 2 of their NHL semifinal series against the Islanders Tuesday in Amalie Arena after basically sleeping through their 2-1 series-opening loss Saturday night. And everyone had to know that turning up the intensity would mean not just throwing a few more body checks, but actually rubbing some gloves in faces, too, just to get their blood going.
And they did. The teams got started down the physical path early as several players got engaged in physical confrontations with one another at 3:15 of the first period, with Lightning forward Pat Maroon wanting to fight the Islanders’ Matt Martin. Martin was more than willing to engage, but the officials wouldn’t allow it. The two would have to wait until later in the period before they actually got to throw their hands at each other.
The overt physicality did seem to get the teams’ blood going, and Game 2 was a much more intense and entertaining spectacle than Game 1 was. The Lightning won, 4-2, to even the best-of-seven series, 1-1, so, mission accomplished on their part — though Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield was not impressed. Mayfield denied the rough stuff had anything to do with the final outcome.
"No, I don't think so,’’ Mayfield said. "I mean, we play that physical game too. You know, we’ve got to make sure we're not taking the extra [penalty]; or even four-on-four, necessarily, depending on the tradeoff. That's part of the game. There's a little bit more after the whistles this game than the first one, maybe, but yeah, it's part of the game. I don't think it altered the outcome."
It was Mayfield, actually, who started the first dustup by aggressively shoving Maroon all over the ice on the shift. Mayfield shoved Maroon in the neutral zone and Maroon grabbed Mayfield’s stick, then Mayfield kept shoving Maroon as he crossed the width of the ice in the neutral zone. Eventually, Maroon just grabbed Mayfield and wrestled him to the ice.
Those two were the only ones to get penalties after everything calmed down — Maroon got a holding penalty, while Mayfield was charged with roughing. That put the teams four-on-four before Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock was called for a high-sticking penalty against Anthony Cirelli, which led to a four-on-three power play for the Lightning.
In all, the teams combined for 54 minutes in penalties, which was less of a problem from an Islanders perspective than the fact that the Lightning ended up with five power plays. They scored on the fourth man-advantage, when Victor Hedman scored his first goal of the playoffs to make it 4-1 at 9:17 of the third period.
"Tonight we kept them at 20% [1-for-5] which is half the rate that they usually hit at,’’ Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. "So yeah, we just can't take that many.’’
The on-ice officials might have been a little off, too, which may have contributed to the high PIM totals. They called Brayden Point for interference on goalie Semyon Varlamov, even though the replay showed clearly that Point was pushed into Varlamov by Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech. The Islanders made that one hurt when Brock Nelson scored on the ensuing power play to tie the game at 1.
Of course, the officials unwittingly evened that out by somehow missing what should have been an obvious too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty against the Lightning a second or two before Nikita Kucherov set up Ondrej Palat’s goal that made it 2-1 at 13:15 of the second period.
The officials seemed intent to keep the game from getting out of control, and seemed to want to call penalties – including some that seemed a little soft, like the slashing call on Travis Zajac that led to the Hedman goal, and the roughing call on Anthony Beauvillier against Kucherov, which seemed like nothing at all.