Well, you can’t say that they didn’t try. The New York Islanders came into the fourth game of their series against the Tampa Bay Lightning in desperate need of a win after dropping the previous two games, but they couldn’t get the job done.
Now, the Lightning are one win away from reaching the Eastern Conference Finals, which really isn’t something that was expected of them when it was announced that captain Steven Stamkos was sidelined for the final stretch of the season due to a blood clot in his arm.
In the first period, the Islanders came out like a team who knew that they had to win or their season was essentially going to be over. They completely dominated the possession game, generating 35 shot attempts in all situation in comparison to Tampa Bay’s 10, and they outshot the Lightning 16-6. Thanks to a penalty from Mike Blunden, Kyle Okposo managed to give the Islanders an early 1-0 lead on a goal that was his first since way way waaaaaay back in game one of the first round agains the Florida Panthers.
— Shannon Hogan (@Shannon_Hogan) May 6, 2016
The second period featured every backup goalie’s worst nightmare. Or, well, dream come true if you have no fear whatsoever. Thomas Greiss skated over to the bench to get some work done on his skate, which didn’t seem like a big deal. But then Greiss and the Islanders’ equipment manager left the ice and went to the team’s locker room, and J-F Berube, who had never played in the playoffs before, started to sweat.
Berube came in, wasn’t given any kind of warmup at all, and was tasked with killing a penalty. Thankfully for him, the Islanders executed an excellent penalty kill, and Berube stopped both shots he had to face, and before he even knew it, Greiss was back and ready to roll.
Berube plays just under five minutes and makes two key saves. Goalies, always be ready!! https://t.co/uq7Q0LSB3I
— The Goalie Guild (@TheGoalieGuild) May 7, 2016
CAPUANO YANKS BERUBE AFTER FLAWLESS EARLY SECOND #greissisback
— Pat Leonard (@PLeonardNYDN) May 7, 2016
The Islanders had another dominant showing in the third period, controlling the possession, but they only managed to outshoot the Lightning 6-5, as Tampa Bay did an excellent job at keeping the puck to the outside. About half way through the period, Nikita Kucherov buried a pass from Tyler Johnson past Greiss to tie the game. The goal was Kucherov’s eighth in just nine playoff games, which is, uh, pretty incredible.
— #StanleyCup Playoffs (@NHL) May 7, 2016
It didn’t take long for the Lightning to win once the overtime period began, as Jason Garrison blasted a shot past Calvin de Haan who was trying to block the shot but ultimately only really served as a screen for Greiss. The puck went right through, and boom, the Lightning grabbed a 3-1 series lead.
Garrison wins it in OT, pushes Islanders to brink of elimination pic.twitter.com/jEkuL6UQsg
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) May 7, 2016
Another key thing to note, though, is an odd missed call that came with about four minutes to go in the third period. Garrison’s stick came up and whacked Okposo in the face, the refs blew the whistle, okay stopped, but nothing was called. It was…. weird? Maybe things would have gone differently if New York was given that power play opportunity. Maybe it was karma for that missed call in game six against Florida?
I think it’s fair to say that the Lightning are really fortunate to have escaped game four with a win. I won’t worry about that missed penalty, because it’s the playoffs, and as we (Panthers fans) know, the refs put their whistles away during rose types of situations. But the Islanders were the better team here, and the numbers back it up. Only three players on the Islanders had an even strength Corsi For percentage under 50 per cent, and the top line of John Tavares, Okposo, and Brock Nelson completely controlled the play, generating two thirds of the shot attempts when on the ice together.
But you also have to give some credit to Tampa Bay’s defence, as they were able to shit New York down from generating any high quality chances. While they had 67 shot attempts throughout the game, they only managed 28 total shots, and only 10 of them were considered high danger. And, of course, Ben Bishop was excellent, too, stopping 27 of 28 shots, including five high danger chances in the second and third periods.
3. Johnny Boychuk
Boychuk played an excellent game for the Islanders, and most of the team’s offence was generated when he was on the ice, as made evident by his team-leading 69.2 Corsi For percentage at even strength.
2. Jason Garrison
Garrison scored the game winning goal in overtime, and he also managed to have the fifth best possession numbers on the Lightning (46.6 per cent) despite making most of his starts in the defensive zone.
1. Ben Bishop
I mentioned it before, but Bishop was excellent, stopping 27 of 28 shots, including an onslaught by the Islanders in the first period that could have ended this game very, very quickly if he wasn’t on his game.