The New York Islanders have been finding ways to win. Many argue that the Florida Panthers were the better team in round 1 – but with timely plays, the Islanders moved on. They got timely saves from goaltender Thomas Greiss and three overtime goals were the obvious difference. In Game 1 of their series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, they took advantage of a rusty Lightning team who had trouble finding their game after 6 days off between rounds. However, game 2 of the series may have finally shown the side of the Islanders that many had expected. The waning minutes of Game 1 should have been a warning for New York as the Lightning scored twice and furiously chasing the tying goal before the Islanders were able to seal it with an empty netter.
The Lightning came out flying in Game 2, showing confidence and speed as they took another early lead. They were able to tack on a second before the Islanders finally broke through. But this time, it never felt close. The goals that Greiss gave up were leaky and momentum killers. When Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman scored off a shot that was well wide but deflected off the Islanders Calvin deHaan, it really didn’t feel like it was New York’s night. After only taking two penalties Game 1, the Islanders took 5 in Game 2. And while the Lightning only capitalized once, the possession, momentum and shots garnered from each Power Play continued to shift the momentum. The Islanders had five power plays of their own, but looked disjointed and were unable to use the man-advantage to stay in the game.
The Islanders are in a precarious position entering Game 3. They should have a great crowd behind them at the Barclay’s Center – which is quickly making it’s own playoff memories – so there is no excuse for the team to come out slow. The Islanders vaunted fourth line was very quiet and Game 2 and will need to provide the on-ice energy that they are known for. If Greiss can reclaim his form, the Islanders should be much more competitive, not allowing the Lightning to start running away with the series. If they don’t, it will be very difficult for them to take momentum back from a very good Tampa Bay team and they could be home a lot sooner than they would like.
The Islanders could get young defenseman Ryan Pulock back from injury who hasn’t played since in this series. Pulock may not be a great improvement on defense over veteran Marek Zidlicky, but he should fair better against the speed of the Lightning and can provide a huge boost to the power play with his ability to shoot from the point. Josh Bailey, who has also been out injured is skating on his own, but most likely will not be ready for a Game 3 return.