It was déjà vu all over again for the Islanders.
Just like Game 3, the Islanders had a victory snatched from the Lightning when Nikita Kucherov (who else!) tied the game in the third period of Game 4 last night.
Just like Game 3, the Islanders lost in overtime last night when Jason Garrison scored the game-winning goal for the Lightning 1:34 into the extra period.
The Islanders blew both leads in the third period and lost in overtime in Games 3 and 4 at the Barclays Center. Now, they are trailing the Lightning 3-1 in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
When Garrison scored the game-winner, not only did it meant the Islanders lost the game, but it also meant they likely lost this series for good.
It’s going to be hard for the Islanders to win three straight against a great Lightning team. This team may be resilient, but they are not good enough to beat the Bolts. That was what this series has been about in a nutshell. Last night was the exclamation mark.
The Lightning are a four-line team. They have so much depth offensively. They haven’t missed a beat with Steve Stamkos being out after having surgery to remove a blood clot near his right collarbone. They have a rising star in Kucherov, who has had eight goals and three assists (11 points) in the playoffs this season.
The Islanders are a one-line team. Quite frankly, they are a one-player team. It’s John Tavares and bunch of role players.
Sorry, but Cal Clutterbuck, Kyle Okposo (he scored the Islanders’ lone goal last night), Frans Nielsen, Brock Nelson and Casey Cizikas are not scaring anyone. They may be good enough to beat grinding teams or bad teams, but not good enough to beat the Lightning.
These guys have a hard time finishing their scoring chances in Games 3 and 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
They have created an anemic power play in their series against the Lightning. It was the same thing against the Panthers.
The Islanders have played the Lightning tough, but it’s about results. The Lightning score one more goal than the Islanders in the playoff games at the Barclays Center.
There’s no need to overanalyze what has gone wrong for the Islanders. The Lightning have better talent offensively.
There was a feeling the Islanders couldn’t protect a 1-0 lead in Game 4. They needed to score another goal. It never happened. Ben Bishop had his best game of the series by making saves after saves for the Lightning.
There was no way the Islanders were surviving a 1-0 lead against a team that features so many offensive players. The Islanders are not the second coming of the Devils where they win by defense.
There was nothing Thomas Greiss could have done last night for the Islanders. He did all he could to match Bishop at net.
He had no chance. Not when the Islanders were struggling to make things happen on offense.
Greiss was the Islanders’ best player last night.
If the Islanders couldn’t win on Greiss’ best night, what makes anyone believe they can win the next three games?
There’s a good chance this series ends Sunday. The series resumes at Amalie Arena, and this is where the Lightning can use their killer instinct against their opponent.
Sure, the Islanders will play the Lightning tough. They have done that. There’s no reason to think it’s going to be different. The Islanders still believe. What choice do they have? It’s part of being a professional athlete.
Maybe they can make something out of Game 5. Maybe they can even win it.
If the Islanders can get this series back to the Barclays Center for Game 6, it would be an accomplishment in itself.
The Islanders are now playing for pride. They will try to win the series. They will go out and believe.
But reality has set in after Garrison’s goal last night.
The Islanders are just not equipped to beat the Lightning. They have to know it deep down.
They will spew out the clichés all they want.
Maybe the Islanders can pull it off. Hockey works in mysterious ways. Every game is a momentum shift. Hockey teams have rebounded from a 3-1 deficit to win the series. It can be done.
But it’s hard to believe the Lightning are blowing this.
This is a team that can win the Stanley Cup. They had a taste of playing in the Stanley Cup Final last year.
They want to get it done this year.
They are not going to blow this opportunity by blowing a series lead against the Islanders.
Odds are against the Islanders heading to Game 5.