38.4 seconds left.
That was how much time was left in regulation. That was how close the Islanders were to a victory. That was how close the Islanders were to take a series lead against the Lightning.
Then, Nikita Kucherov fired a slap shot that Islanders goaltender Thomas Greiss had no chance of saving, and the game was tied. The game was sent to overtime.
From the thrill of victory to agony of defeat.
The Islanders went on to take a 5-4 Game 3 loss to the Lightning in overtime. Now, they are behind 2-1 in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
This was a disappointing loss for the Islanders. This was a game they should have won. This was a game they should have finished. This was a game Greiss should have gotten it done.
If the Islanders lose this series, we can go back to Game 3.
Games like this should be won. It can’t be a blown opportunity. That was the case last night for the Islanders.
There are so many culprits in this Islanders’ loss, but Greiss stands out the most.
Okay, so he had no shot to make that save on Kucherov’s shot. That shot was so good. Think of Al MacInnis making that slap shot in his prime. That shot tied the game at 4.
But the Islanders goaltender should have made that save in overtime. He should have made that catch.
After Victor Hedman fired a wide-open shot from the left side, Brian Boyle had the rebound and he was able to shoot it to score. The puck was able to beat Greiss in the slot, and it was game over.
That’s a shot Greiss needs to save. Plain and simple. It was a gimme.
We can talk about Boyle’s hit on Hickey warranting a penalty, even though that hit looked clean. It’s still on Greiss to make that catch. He had it. He might have lost it in a split-second.
It wasn’t only the overtime that he stunk. He struggled all night long. He gave up five goals. He shouldn’t have even been in this position to keep it at 4-3 with 38.4 seconds to go. He couldn’t protect a 3-2 lead in the third period.
When a goaltender gives up five goals, his team is not going to win. Simple as that.
The shame is Ben Bishop stunk last night. The Vezina finalist was no better than Greiss, and in the end, he made more saves than the Islanders goaltender when it mattered in the end.
The Islanders have a shot to win this series because of Greiss. Bishop is nothing to write home about. This is where the Islanders goaltender can be better than his counterpart.
Greiss doesn’t have to be great. All he has to be is decent. As Corey Crawford demonstrated over the years with the Blackhawks, a goaltender does not have to be great to win the Cup.
If Greiss played like he did in Games 2 and 3, the Islanders will not beat the Lightning in this playoff round.
The Islanders are going to find out about him in Game 4. They need him to rebound from two awful performances in a row. He has to have an amnesia and go forward.
Greiss has showed he can rebound from tough losses, but this is going to be different. He’s coming off two bad games, and he is going off against a great scoring team.
He was rattled after giving up the game-tying goal last night. That has to be a concern. This is true adversity for him.
Greiss has done such a good job in the playoffs this year, but playoffs feature adversity for goaltenders. They are going to have bad games in the playoffs. It happens. That’s not a crime. Yes, last night was disappointing, but he has to show he can engineer a win on his own. He has showed he can do that in Games 4, 5 and 6 against the Panthers in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
The Islanders are going to need him more than ever. If he struggles Friday night, they won’t have a shot to beat the Lightning.
There is no margin for error anymore. Greiss can’t bomb anymore. He had two games where he can fail, and he used it up.
We can talk about bad defense. We can talk about how the Islanders failed to score several more times in the game.
Ultimately, it always comes down to the goaltender. It always is this time of the year.
Greiss did not give the Islanders a chance last night.
Giving up five goals and two blown leads are a recipe for failure.