So much for stealing away home ice advantage from Bolts..
Lightning lead series 2-1
I - NYI 5; TBL 3
II - TBL 4; NYI 1
III - TBL 5; NYI 4*
New York Islanders did everything they wanted in Game Three ... except win.
It also makes complete sense Ryan Callahan and Brian Boyle would thrive in such a physically played game.
The Islanders turned Game Three into a grudge match - just as planned. That's when they're at their best, and I believe their physicality will indeed wear on Tampa as the series continues. And that's why the Islanders should continue playing in this manner despite suffering a brutal overtime loss Tuesday night at Barclays Center.
Even I have to admit my guilt, though, in so far as overlooking Ryan Callahan and Brian Boyle. Shame on me as a Rangers fan, I should have known better. The two obviously benefit from their familiarity with New York City, and particularly playing in front of Islanders home crowds. Moreover, they were easily Tampa's two most resilient players on the ice. After all, they were indoctrinated under John Tortorella, and so found the Islanders' style quite to their liking, and it showed.
There's an argument to be made the Islanders partly blew Game Three in the 1st period, which was actually their best session of the game. I say that because John Tavares registered so little ice time, with Coach Cooper temporarily getting the better of Jack Capuano in so far as line changes and match-ups.
But with Jack Capuano left decoding his counterpart, the Islanders fourth line carried the action.
Misstep Number One
- With everything seemingly going the Islanders way, they literally tripped themselves up late in the 1st period by committed one of the cardinal sins of hockey - allowing a goal within the last two minutes of a period.
At 18:27, Casey Cizikas was dispatched to the sin bin for carelessly tripping Brian Boyle. In turn, the Bolts wasted no time converting what amounted to a costly lack of situational awareness. With just 0:13 left in the period, Ryan Callahan established position in front of Thomas Greiss, and deflected Alex Killorn's wide shot back on net and beyond Thomas Greiss, tying the score at one.
The Bolts and Isles fought to a 2nd period draw on the judge's scorecards, after swapping goals from Victor Hedman and Nick Leddy.
Misstep Number Two
- After Josh Bailey converted a power play opportunity just 2:27 into the 3rd period, the Bolts returned fire a mere minute later, tying the score again at three.
That was a punch to the gut, but New York's fourth line continued carrying the night with Cal Clutterbuck finding net, and putting the Islanders ahead 4-3 at the 11:23 mark.
Misstep Number Three
- With 2:00 left in regulation, Jon Cooper pulled Ben Bishop in order to give the Bolts a man advantage, and it worked. With just 0:38 left in regulation, Nikita Kucherov got lost in the slot, and zapped one beyond Thomas Greiss to tie the game at four.
Brian Boyle reared his head again in overtime, but this time in a most controversial way. He separated Thomas Hickey from the puck high in the Isles defensive zone but with a questionable hit to the head area that went unpenalized by the men in stripes. The play remained on side for Tampa, and while Boyle rejoined the rush, Hickey remained laid-out on the ice.
- Was Boyle's hit retaliation for the even bigger hit Thomas Hickey laid on Jonathan Drouin? I don't think it was, but I won't get in anyone's way if they think so. I'm also not so sure Brian Boyle deserved a penalty either.
With just 0:38 second left in regulation, Ryan Callahan was credited with an assist, but in truth the puck caromed off the backboard and found Brian Boyle positioned on the weak side, who snapped it beyond Thomas Greiss for the game winning goal.
Brian Boyle also got into a pre-game scrum during warm-ups, then had a 1st period goal waved off for a high stick. In other words, Brian Boyle had his fingerprints all over this game, with Ryan Callahan right there with him, and both standing tall after a very physical game.
Just the way they like it...
I still say both teams are flirting with disaster. Each committed four more penalties in Game Three. Despite trading power play goals Tuesday, both PP units continue to flounder. Tampa is 2 of 11 with the man advantage (which does not include Coach Cooper pulling Bishop in the 3rd period of Game Three). The Islanders are 2 for 13 on the PP. All hail their respective PK, but eventually, something is gonna give.
Behind the Mask
There's been talk of Jaroslav Halak's improvement, and potential return. An obvious question, then, begs to be asked. Should Halak be reinstated, if and when available, or is this playoff run now firmly in the pads of Thomas Greiss?
We already have all the context we need - Screaming for Vengence with be the anthem of the night.
The Islanders must win Game Four at home before heading back to the Sunshine State. It's not critical they do, just terribly necessary.
They started Game Three perfectly, with big hits, and a 1-0 lead, just like the doctor ordered. For the game, the Islanders out-hit Tampa by a 44-34 margin. In turn, the Islanders incurred 14 takeaways. They also muscled their way to a 38-27 victory in the face-off battle. The Islanders additionally raised their number of shots on goal. Now they must do more.
- Josh Bailey is such a difference maker when he's healthy.
- I'm having trouble recalling a better fourth line in hockey.