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Islanders lose Game 4 to Lightning, nearing elimination from Eastern Conference finals

Blake Coleman #20 of the Tampa Bay Lightning

Blake Coleman #20 of the Tampa Bay Lightning scores a goal past Semyon Varlamov #40 of the Islanders during the second period in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals at Rogers Place on September 13, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Credit: Getty Images/Bruce Bennett

The Islanders took the lead. Two shifts and 27 seconds later, they were trailing.

And so they may have lost their chance to reach the Stanley Cup Final after a 4-1 loss to the Lightning on Sunday at Rogers Place in Edmonton put them in a 3-1 series hole in the Eastern Conference finals.

The Lightning scored four unanswered goals — two within 12 seconds of each other — after Brock Nelson gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead at 11:27 of the second period.

"The most important shift is probably the shift after a goal, and we failed it twice," defenseman Scott Mayfield said.

Game 5 — and the potential end of the Islanders’ season after their first trip to the conference finals since 1993 — is Tuesday night.

"We have one life left," coach Barry Trotz said. "I know this group has invested too much to not give their best effort on Tuesday."

"I think you become more desperate," Mayfield said. "It’s an elimination game. It changes a little bit. The focus is always on winning. We need to win the next one."

There certainly was more that went into the Islanders’ loss than a bad 27 seconds.

The Lightning had top-six forwards Brayden Point and Alex Killorn back in the lineup after both missed the Islanders’ 5-3 win in Friday night’s Game 3. Point missed that game with an undisclosed injury — and again hobbled to the bench late in Sunday’s third period — and Killorn was serving a one-game suspension for his boarding major on Nelson in Game 2.

Point’s top line with Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat combined for two goals and four assists. The Islanders’ top trio of Mathew Barzal between Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle totaled eight shots, 14 chances and no points.

"Their first line has put a mark on us in a couple of games," Trotz said. "They’re high-level, elite players. You can’t give them an inch and we’ve given them too many inches."

The Islanders’ power play was 0-for-3 with eight shots and is 0-for-9 in the last three games and 1-for-14 in the series.

Andrei Vasilevskiy made 26 saves for the Lightning as the Islanders did not force him to go side-to-side as much as they had in Game 3. Semyon Varlamov stopped 32 shots for the Islanders.

Blake Coleman beat Varlamov on a breakaway 15 seconds after Nelson’s goal and Palat made it 2-1 only 12 seconds after that, lifting a shot at the left post off Kucherov’s feed.

"You want to follow up a goal with a good shift, have a good response and kind of stay on it," said Nelson, who skated in and around Lightning defenders and beat Vasilevskiy over his glove. "They had a better response than we did and got two quick ones, and that was the difference. Really, 30 seconds, if you hang on there a bit, it’s a different game."

Lightning coach Jon Cooper kept Yanni Gourde’s line with Coleman and Barclay Goodrow on the ice after Nelson scored. The strategy paid off quickly.

"I’m not a big believer in just because you got scored on, go to the bench and think about it," Cooper said. "Like, get out there and get it back. Now I can’t sit here and say I thought they’d get it back in 15 seconds or whatever it was. Part of my job is make sure they’ve got the confidence to go do their job, and I have full confidence in them and they delivered. That was obviously a huge goal for us."

"Getting scored on doesn’t sit real well," Coleman said. "Credit to Coop keeping us out there, giving us a shot to get it back."

Point gave the Lightning a 3-1 lead at 3:33 of the third period, finishing an odd-man rush off Palat’s feed to the crease as Barzal overskated and wound up leaving Point open at the net. Pat Maroon added an empty-netter at 17:36 of the third period.

The Islanders did not get off to the strong start they wanted as they were outshot 11-5 in the first period and out-chanced 27-8. The Lightning took the game’s first four shots and Anthony Cirelli hit the crossbar in the opening minute.

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