Photo from nhl.com
Monday night may have been the night that the series turned.
The Tampa Bay Lightning not only beat the Islanders, but they destroyed their manhood in the process.
Make no mistake. It wasn’t pretty from the Islanders’ standpoint in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup semifinals. The Lightning made a point by running up the score in an 8-0 beatdown of the Islanders at Amalie Arena to take a 3-2 series lead. They also goaded the Islanders to meltdown with stupid penalties such as Mat Barzal getting game misconduct after a cross-check to the face of defenseman Jan Rutta as the second period came to a close.
This was not just a loss. This was a message sent to the Islanders that they are not good enough to beat the defending Stanley Cup champions in a long series.
Say this is just one game all you want and that it’s no different than losing 1-0 or 2-1, but when a team gets beat like that this late in the series, it should be a concern. Teams should be getting better, not worse. It seemed like the Islanders went backwards. The Lightning played to another level of excellence from Level 1 to Level 4 in a video game sense. To say it was the Islanders’ largest margin of defeat in a playoff game in franchise history is an understatement.
If we are being honest, the Lightning outplayed the Islanders this entire series. If Ryan Pulock did not block Ryan McDonagh’s shot, this could have gone to overtime. Odds are maybe the Islanders lose that game in OT.
You can say the Lightning outplayed Islanders in a sense the Islanders can’t seem to figure out the Lightning defense and Andrei Vasilevskiy. We have seen this in Games 2, 3 and now 5. In Game 1, the Islanders got two fluke goals on a five-hole by Barzal and Pulock to get a 2-1 win. Other than that, it was hard to say the Islanders dominated.
The Lightning dominated the Islanders three times now. It’s a trend. They know they can beat the Islanders anytime and anywhere. They can beat them by playing the Islanders close to the vest style of play (Game 3) and their wide-open style of play (Game 5). This is why this is not just a loss in a playoff series. It could be the beginning of the end. It could end Wednesday night at the Coliseum. It could end Friday night if it even gets that far.
The Lightning KOed the Islanders in Game 5 to the point the Islanders may not recover. They smell blood, and they could finish the Islanders off in Game 6.
Sure, the Islanders are the home team in the next game. Sure, they will be playing for the season. But it may not matter much when they are playing a team that is possessed right now. This Lightning team may be better than last year if you can believe that.
The Lightning attacked early and often. They forced the Islanders to turn the puck over several times in the first period. They created traffic and forced several rushes. They were able to get breakaways. At one point, the Lightning received eight scoring chances off Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov in the first period. That attack resulted in three Islanders turnovers, three Lightning goals and Varlamov being pulled for Ilya Sorokin.
The goaltending change did nothing. The Lightning kept piling it on by scoring three goals in the second period to make this a 6-0 game, and that’s where Barzal lost his mind.
Here’s what’s damning: There was no resistance from the Islanders. They couldn’t do anything about it. They were pushed around by the Stanley Cup champions. All that was missing was the “Kick Me Sign!” on the back of the Islanders uniforms.
The only thing surprising about this game is that it didn’t end 12-0. It could have been. It didn’t matter. The Lightning sent a message to the Islanders loud and clear that they are about to finish them.
The Islanders need to do something about it. It just happened to be the next game where they are in a do-or-die game. If they don’t respond early and often as the Lightning did in the first period of Game 5, this game may as well be over early like Game 5.
We know the Islanders will respond because they can’t play any worse as they did in Game 5. But that does not guarantee anything. The Lightning showed they can win in a low-scoring game in the Stanley Cup semifinals. They also know how to finish their opponent as they showed against the Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes.
The Islanders needed to make a statement in Game 5 by winning another on the road. Instead, it was the Lightning that did.
It could likely be the game that broke the Islanders altogether