The New York Islanders are in the Eastern Conference final of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in nearly 30 years. The 8-2 beatdown the club received at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning in Monday’s series opener provided a big-time reminder that the pace of play elevates each round.
Now, the onus is on the Islanders to regroup from that debacle and even the series when it resumes Wednesday in Edmonton, with the memory of that crushing rout serving as motivation without fretting about what happened.
“It’s a long series, it’s Game 1,” Islanders captain Anders Lee said. “We dropped the ball. We have an opportunity to come right back at it, fix our mistakes. … When you get this far in a series like this, you can’t dwell on the loss. You’ve got to be ready for the next one.”
Certainly the Islanders have plenty to learn from. Even though New York won two of the three regular-season meetings between the clubs, they saw a Lightning team that’s lately been on a new level, using its up-tempo play and skill to dominate games.
“We were watching rather than participating,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “You can’t do that against Tampa. You’ve got to be hard on them. You’ve got to take away their space. You’ve got to take away their numbers and limit their chances. They’re going to get chances. They’re a good hockey team. They’ve got some very dynamic people as you saw. … We’ve just got to get to our game.”
The Lightning, who have won five straight games by a combined score of 25-9, must be wary of complacency settling in — even at this juncture of the playoffs.
The first part of that is a reminder they won’t likely see a repeat of such a beatdown — although Tampa took the lead in its series with Boston with a 7-1 win and never looked back.
“Let’s be honest, we got a lot of bounces,” said forward Brayden Point, who, along with Nikita Kucherov racked up five points in the series opener. “Things went well for us. We can’t hang our hat on that one. We’ve got to come back ready for Game 2 because we know they’re a fantastic team. They play hard. They play physical. They take away time and space, so we have to be ready for Game 2.”
Plus, the Lightning will be reminded they weren’t perfect en route to matching a franchise record for goals scored in a playoff game.
“We gave up some chances, and our goaltender made some saves, pucks happened to go in for us that may not go in otherwise,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “We were doing some good things, but we gave up some chances where we weren’t happy in the locker room the way things were going. So, we look at this solely as a Game 1 win, whether you win the game in overtime or you win the way we did, it’s just one game. Now we’re on even terms. There’s no travel. Everybody gets the same rest. They get to recover. We get to recover a little bit and it becomes a series.”
One injury note came of the opener. New York forward Cal Clutterbuck blocked a shot midway through the second period and didn’t take another shift. His status for Game 2 is unknown.
–Field Level Media