The Tampa Bay Lightning almost came back in the third period against the New York Islanders in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals on Saturday, but the mistakes they made in the second period were too much to overcome.
“It was red rotten, that second period,” Lightning coach John Cooper said after the 3-2 loss at Nassau Coliseum. “These guys have given it their all for whatever it’s been now, a month and change, and sometimes you lay and egg, and we laid one in the second period.”
The best-of-7 series is tied with Game 5 at Tampa Bay on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, SN).
The Lightning had 20 giveaways, their most in a playoff game this season, with 17 of those in the first two periods. When they struggled to clear midway through the second, defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Erik Cernak got stuck on the ice for a shift of 2:47.
New York took advantage of Tampa Bay’s errors. Josh Bailey gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead 5:30 into the second period after Lightning forward Ross Colton mishandled the puck at the blue line. About eight minutes later, Lightning forward Brayden Point lost his stick, leaving Mathew Barzal open to score off a rebound for a 2-0 lead at 13:46. Adam Pelech later intercepted Point’s pass, which slid behind Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov, and Matt Martin scored to make it 3-0 with 2:03 remaining.
“We have guys who can hold on and be patient and make plays,” McDonagh said. “I’m sure they’d want a few more plays back. We want to be consistent there and play disciplined with the puck and help set up our forechecking game similar to their game plan against us. We have confidence in our group. They’re going to make the right reads more times often than not, but we can definitely be better at executing with the puck on our stick.”
The Lightning almost came back. Point scored a goal for the seventh consecutive game, cutting the lead to 3-1 3:45 into the third period. Tyler Johnson scored at 6:43 to make it 3-2, but McDonagh’s last-second attempt to tie the game was blocked by Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock.
It’s rare when the Lightning have an off night, but they were happier with their third period and want to bring more of that level of play into Game 5.
“We know we can do that for 60 minutes,” defenseman Victor Hedman said. “It’s one of the things, you can’t take anything for granted, obviously, this time of the year. They’re a great team and they’re going to have their pushes. They obviously connected and scored three goals, so that’s not up to our standard. We played more desperate in the third, but that’s what happens when you’re down 3-0. We just have to make sure we do that from the start.”