That was a performance for the ages — and for all the wrong reasons for the Islanders.
The Tampa Bay Lightning ran roughshod over New York, 8-0, flexing their muscle as defending champions and taking advantage of a discomposed, loose Islanders team that never even showed up to Amalie Arena after an emotional Game 5 win on Saturday at Nassau Coliseum.
It’s just the fourth time in franchise history that the Islanders allowed eight goals in a postseason game — and the second time in two years they did so against the Lightning, dropping Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals last year in the Edmonton bubble.
The Islanders are now facing elimination as the series shifts back to Long Island on Wednesday night, staring at a 3-2 series hole.
They were punched right from the start as Tampa made its big push on home ice — and they yielded almost immediately.
Steven Stamkos appeared at a perfect time for the Lightning, getting on the end of a blocked shot at the left post with Semyon Varlamov out of position and finishing in a wide-open net 45 seconds into Game 5.
Leo Komarov and Jean-Gabriel Pageau made a mess of things midway through the period when they failed to clear an easy chance right by their blue line, allowing Yanni Gourde to walk down the left wing before banking a centering pass off New York defenseman Andy Green and through the five-hole of Varlamov 11:04 into the period.
If not for Varlamov, the first period could have been much, much worse as he faced eight odd-man rushes in the first 16 minutes of play.
But he was continuously left out to dry and after a scramble in front of his net came out to David Savard, a floater back toward his goal was knocked down by the blocker but stabbed in by Alex Killorn to make it 3-0 with 4:33 left in the frame. Tampa’s rush was created by the Game 4 hero Ryan Pulock’s turnover at the boards near center ice in front of the benches.
Varlamov’s night was done after that as Trotz called upon the rookie Ilya Sorokin in an attempt to slow the Lightning down.
He didn’t allow a goal in the final 4:33 which — considering how bad the Islanders’ start was — was progress as Tampa outshot New York 19-5 in the opening 20 minutes.
The Islanders came out with a solid response in the opening minutes of the second, but the second line missed what looked like simple tap-ins. Following an Anthony Beauvillier wrister, Brock Nelson had a rebound with an open net but he couldn’t stuff it home as the puck wouldn’t settle. The same line then hit two posts just seconds later with Vasilevskiy on his stomach.
Any goodwill created by the push quickly evaporated as a frustrated Nelson hooked Jan Rutta in the Lightning zone.
Just seconds in, Sorokin was hit in the throat by a high shot from Nikita Kucherov and looked as though he was headed back to the bench, but he campaigned to stay in.
Less than a minute later, Stamkos got his second on the man-advantage as he sniped a wrister over Sorokin’s shoulder just 5:42 into the period to complete the gargantuan swing in momentum.
After killing off two more penalties, the Islanders were beaten yet again off a point shot from Savard as Ondrej Palat redirected one past a sliding Sorokin.
It became six with two minutes left in the period after Pageau took a tripping penalty when Killorn deflected a Victor Hedman shot in.
Frustration boiled over as the second period expired when Mathew Barzal crosschecked Rutta in the face, prompting a five-minute major and an ejection as the Islanders’ night went from bad to worse.
The Lightning added a pair from Brayden Point — who scored in an eighth-consecutive playoff game — and Luke Schenn in the third period to complete the Islanders’ embarrassment.