If Islanders fans are thinking that Game 5 was one of the worst games they’ve ever seen, they’re right.
After a dramatic Game 4 thriller that evened the series for New York, they were handed their worst defeat in franchise history on Monday night in Game 5 — an 8-0 thumping at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Never in 310 previous postseason games had they lost by eight goals and it was only the fourth time in franchise history that they allowed that many goals in a playoff game.
The last time it happened was in Game 1 of last year’s Eastern Conference Final against the very same Lightning — though the circumstances were much different as the Islanders hastily had to travel across Canada from the Toronto to Edmonton bubble with little rest or preparation to play a well-rested Lightning team.
No such excuses were available for Monday night’s debacle.
“It was one of those nights where we couldn’t do anything right, it didn’t go our way,” head coach Barry Trotz said.
How does one come back from that kind of beatdown to not only put on a strong showing Game 6 at Nassau Coliseum, but to stave off elimination as the Lightning are now just one win away from the Stanley Cup Final?
“We’ll just have to park it,” Trotz said. “The game, this result, how we played, if this doesn’t motivate us, I’m not sure what will. There’s nothing I can say that will motivate us. We just have to man up.
“We’re going to need our best game and we’re going to have to earn our right to keep playing. I’ve been with this group for a long time. I know the character of this group, and we’ll be ready.”
Park it, burn the tape, put it in the rearview mirror; whatever you want to call it, the Islanders will have to have amnesia as the series shifts back to Long Island where a deafening Coliseum will look to help tip the tide in their team’s favor to force a Game 7 back in Tampa on Friday.
“A loss is a loss this time of year. Whether if it was in double overtime or the way it went tonight,” forward Kyle Palmieri said. “We’ll wake up tomorrow down 3-2 headed home with our back against the wall. We have a chance to win a game at home. That’s what we’re focused on now.”
Historically speaking, the Islanders have responded well when giving up eight goals in a playoff game — though history means nothing in the postseason. They’re 2-1 with wins over the Rangers in 1975 and the Flyers in the 1980 Stanley Cup Final, but the one loss came in a 2-1 decision last year in Game 2 against the Lightning.
“This group played for one another for a long time,” veteran winger Brock Nelson said. “A high-character group. We’re going to leave this one here, learn from it a bit, but come out at the Coli and play a better game. It’s just plain and simple.”