Lightning are too hot to handle for Islanders
TAMPA, Fla. — Not even Ilya Sorokin, so brilliant in net lately, could help the Islanders avoid a potential dent to their playoff pursuit. Not with the Lightning getting behind the defense too often.
“I wouldn’t say consistently,” coach Lane Lambert said. “It happened a couple of times for sure, and it can’t happen. We just didn’t have awareness, which is not a good thing. Overall, they executed on their chances.”
The Islanders had a two-game winning streak snapped in a 5-0 loss on Saturday night at Amalie Arena. A blameless Sorokin allowed four goals on 21 shots in 31:45 before being pulled for the first time this season.
On the plus side, that might allow him to start on Sunday when the Islanders (39-29-9) conclude their three-game road trip against the Hurricanes, though Lambert said that was not part of his thought process in substituting Semyon Varlamov.
Andrei Vasilevskiy made 38 saves for the Lightning (45-26-6), who clinched a playoff berth with their third straight win. They have outscored their last three opponents 14-1 and will face the Islanders again Thursday night at UBS Arena.
The Islanders still hold a two-point lead over the Panthers for the Eastern Conference’s first wild-card spot. The Panthers’ win in Columbus allowed them to leapfrog the Penguins, who lost to the visiting Bruins but have played one fewer game than either the Islanders or Panthers.
“We actually had a few really good looks,” defenseman Ryan Pulock said. “We had a lot of shots . I thought we had some really good chances. We gave up way too many. But it’s not like they were taking it to us all night. We just made a couple of mistakes that cost us.”
The Islanders were shut out for the sixth time this season and for the second time in four games. They went 0-for-3 on the power play and were outscored 3-0 in the second period despite holding a 20-12 shot advantage in the middle 20 minutes.
“We started the game fine,” Anders Lee said. “The second [period] was just garbage. We had some missed assignments. Little things that we haven’t been doing lately. They did take advantage of them.”
Tanner Jeannot got free just above the crease to tip in Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s feed for a 2-0 lead at 3:42 of the second period. Nikita Kucherov scored on a breakaway at 9:57 and Steven Stamkos ended Sorokin’s outing at 11:45 of the second period as defenseman Darren Raddysh’s feed deflected in off his skate for a 4-0 lead.
Brayden Point’s power-play goal at 13:26 of the third period capped the scoring. Varlamov finished with 10 saves.
Defenseman Mikhail Sergachev opened the scoring at 17:53 of the first period on a slap shot from the left point that deflected off the leg of defenseman Alexander Romanov and past Sorokin’s short side.
The Islanders had surged in the playoff chase with an 8-3-1 mark in March and Sorokin certainly was a big reason why, going 8-1-1 with a 2.29 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage. The 23 goals he allowed were the fewest for any goalie with at least 10 appearances last month.
“It’s one game,” defenseman Noah Dobson said. “We’re not going to dwell on it too much. It didn’t go our way. We had some looks. They had some chances they capitalized on.
“A couple times we got caught trying to focus on the offense. Down by a couple of goals, we’re trying to make something happen. But you’ve got to have good awareness of when they’re taking off like that.”