The Islanders may have left their game in Toronto.
In what turned out to be their most lackluster performance since the start of the playoffs, the Islanders had circles skated around them Monday night as the Lightning took a roaring 8-2 victory in Game 1 at Rogers Place in Edmonton.
Whether it was the one-day turnaround from the second round or the full day of travel that followed, the Islanders were outworked from start to finish. It could’ve been the fact that Tampa Bay has been preparing for their next opponent since defeating the Bruins in five games on Aug. 31. Or maybe the emotional high from defeating the Flyers in Game 7 on Saturday night was too much to come down from so soon.
Either way, the Islanders allowed the Lightning to take an easy 1-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference finals and assert their dominance in the series. Eight goals ties the most-ever recorded against the Islanders in a playoff game, the last time coming in 1980 by the Flyers.
Islanders coach Barry Trotz opted to start Thomas Greiss in net for the second straight game after his shutout performance Saturday. But after allowing three goals on nine shots just under 11 minutes into the game, Greiss was replaced by Semyon Varlamov.
The Lightning had the Isles playing to their pace and style right from the opening puck drop. Just over a minute into the first period, Brayden Point took the puck all by himself into the Islanders zone and powered by defenseman Ryan Pulock to the net before sweeping the puck past Greiss for a 1-0 lead. Point extended his point streak to seven straight games.
The Islanders struck back as Blake Coleman was called for interference shortly after and Jordan Eberle broke through and stuffed home a rebound at 4:33 to pull even 1-1.
Going on their second power play of the night after Andy Greene hooked Nikita Kucherov, the Lightning took the lead on a blast from Victor Hedman at 8:12 of the first. Tampa Bay continued to overwhelm the Islanders, with Ryan McDonagh sniping one short side on Greiss for the 3-1 score at 10:46.
Trotz then promptly replaced Greiss with Varlamov.
The Islanders opened the second period on the power play after Mikhail Sergachev tripped Brock Nelson, who nearly scored after getting right back on his feet and getting the shot off.
Even starting the period on the man-advantage couldn’t swing momentum in the Islanders favor as Tampa Bay continued to be dominant on the forecheck. A three-on-two Lightning rush ended with Yanni Gourde sweeping the puck in for the 4-1 lead just over four minutes into the second.
Despite limiting the Lightning’s chances after the goalie change, a slew of penalties worked against an already tired Islanders lineup. Point recorded his second goal of the day with a tip on a shot from Hedman from the point to go up 5-1 after Greene was penalized for high sticking.
Shortly into the third period, Ross Johnston earned a 10-minute misconduct while Matt Martin and Mikhail Sergachev were given matching cross-checking penalties. During the four-on-four play, Kucherov buried a perfect pass from Point at 5:51 of the third for the 6-1 score.
Nick Leddy placed a shot over Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy’s glove at 8:46 to make it a four-goal game. But a giveaway by Devon Toews allowed Ondrej Palat to waltz right back in and give the Lightning a 7-2 lead.
After Derick Brassard was called for slashing at 12:37, Gourde notched his second of the day to make it 8-2 on a quick wrister that blew past Varlamov.