Sometimes, “them’s the breaks.”
After getting blown out in Game 1, the Islanders returned to their trademark brand of hockey — and it still wasn’t good enough, as they dropped Game 2 on Wednesday night following Nikita Kucherov’s game-winner with just 7.8 seconds left in regulation.
The Islanders now face a 2-0 series deficit in their first time trailing in a series all postseason, yet their rebuttal was a promising one, and the demeanor continued to remain mostly optimistic.
“We’ve lost some OT games, we’ve lost some different ways that have punched us in the stomach a few times… This one’s a little bit of a shot to the gut,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “Every time we’ve done that, we got up.”
It’s just the second time all postseason that the Islanders have lost consecutive games, though Game 2 is normally one they come out on top of given their recent track record.
They limited the dangerous Lightning offense to just 21 shots on the night, stymied their Grade-A chances considerably compared to Game 1, won 56% of the face-offs, and created four power-play opportunities.
But the Islanders couldn’t take advantage of their chances to put Tampa Bay away after scoring the opener just 1:29 into the game through Matt Martin.
A five-minute major and game misconduct boarding penalty in the first period by Alex Killorn put Tampa down a forward all night, but the Islanders couldn’t find the back of the net on the unreleasable infraction, mustering just five shots in the process.
With the game tied at one midway through the third, they had a 5-on-3 opportunity as well, to which they didn’t put nearly enough pressure on Andrei Vasilevskiy’s net. Instead, they tried to make the extra pass instead, looking for the highlight-reel play rather than the right one.
“We’re trying to get a little bit too fine. Sometimes you have to get a little greasy,” Trotz said. “We were trying to pass it in the net. When we did get some pretty good looks, Vasilevskiy was pretty big.”
Friday now becomes a must-win scenario for the Islanders as to avoid an all-but-dooming 3-0 series deficit. Yet their effort in Game 2 looks to be providing the blueprint on how to pull this Eastern Conference Final back.
“We believe that we can win the series and we still do,” Martin said. “It’s a good effort, unfortunately we came up short. More often than not you’re going to win.”
“After a blowout loss, I just liked our response as a group. We came out and played the right way for 60 minutes.”
Now it’s up to Trotz and his squad to find the last few tweaks to turn this thing around.
“The first game wasn’t us, that was a team that was tired and today we got our energy back and we’ll be ready for next game,” Trotz said. “This group has a lot of character, a lot of fight in them.”
Puck drop for Game 3 is Friday night at 8 p.m. ET (USA Network).