The Islanders’ overtime magic abandoned them again Friday night, and now their season is on the brink.
Tampa Bay’s Jason Garrison beat Thomas Greiss with a slap shot at 1:34 of OT for a 2-1 Lightning win and a 3-1 series hole for the Islanders in their Eastern Conference semifinal series. Game 5 is Sunday afternoon in Tampa.
For the second straight game at Barclays Center, the Islanders were the better team. For the second straight game, they lost a third-period lead and then were quickly dispatched in overtime, this time after Calvin de Haan broke his stick and Garrison’s shot went through de Haan’s inadvertent screen and past Greiss.
“We had plenty of opportunities,” John Tavares said. “It’s a fine line in playoff hockey. You have to be able to overcome these things. It doesn’t matter how you get it done, obviously. You’ve got to get results this time of year.”
The Islanders, as they did in Game 3, had a strong first period Friday night, grabbing the lead on Kyle Okposo’s power- play goal 4:20 into the game and outshooting the Lightning 16-6.
But Ben Bishop was sharp and the Islanders failed on a four-minute power play late in the period to hit the dressing room up by only the one goal. They were in the same situation after two periods and into the third. That’s when Nikita Kucherov, who tied Game 3 on a backbreaker with 38.4 seconds to play in regulation, slapped one past Greiss at 7:49 to tie it.
There were a few strange moments between Okposo’s goal and Kucherov’s, including Greiss being forced to exit the game for a 4:47 stretch early in the second period because of a broken skate blade. J-F Berube came out of the cold and made two saves, both on a Lightning power play, to keep the Islanders ahead.
A damaged piece of the boards delayed the start of the third period by 10 minutes, but neither of those oddities fazed the Islanders. Instead it was Kucherov, who leads the NHL with eight goals this postseason.
“We gave up five shots and maybe one scoring chance and they tie it,” coach Jack Capuano said. “We have to find ways to score more goals.”
With a second straight overtime game and fourth in five postseason games at Barclays Center, the Islanders could not recover their OT mojo that helped them win three times against the Panthers, including Tavares’ double-OT series clincher in Game 6.
De Haan broke his stick along the wall trying to get the puck out of the zone and Okposo handed de Haan a stick, allowing the Lightning to set up.
Garrison’s one-timer came with no Lightning player in front of Greiss, but de Haan was a few feet out, and his block attempt served to screen his goaltender.
“You give up that shot all day long,” Capuano said. “It had eyes.”
Now all that’s left for the Islanders is to win — with flair, ugly, you name it. They found themselves chasing the Panthers most of last series and ended up advancing, and now they are on the brink of elimination after outplaying the Lightning the last two games.
“This time of year, it’s not about playing well,” Okposo said. “It doesn’t matter if you play bad and win, if you play good and win. We just have to win.”