3 Takeaways From Islanders’ 5-3 Loss to Lightning

For a lot of reasons, the New York Islanders game against the Tampa Bay Lightning felt like a must-win one. They were coming off a tough 4-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils and needed a bounce-back performance and were playing their first game of a back-to-back. Moreover, with world-class goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy taking the night off and Brian Elliott in the net, the Islanders needed to take advantage.

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Instead, they lost 5-3 and never led at any point in the game. The loss was a tough one for the Islanders who are hoping to have a big season and reach the playoffs but the loss particularly stung as it raised considerable doubt about the roster for the first time this season. The Islanders’ weaknesses were exploited and the Lightning uncovered some issues that weren’t expected entering the season.

Islanders Mistakes & Tough Breaks

This Islanders team is starting to differentiate itself from the ones coached by Barry Trotz but in a negative manner. The team committed multiple turnovers and costly mistakes against the Lightning, resulting in numerous costly goals. Granted, the aggressive style of play instilled by first-year head coach Lane Lambert has seen the offense thrive, but at the same time, multiple mistakes, especially in the defensive zone, have allowed opponents to find easy scoring opportunities.

Lane Lambert New York Islanders
Lane Lambert, New York Islanders (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Lightning scored five goals in the 5-3 victory and most of the goals came off mistakes in the defensive zone where they would find quick shots on the net, often catching goaltender Ilya Sorokin off guard. The Islanders managed to create multiple turnovers in the game but carelessly moved the puck afterward and the Lightning took advantage.

Despite the errors, the Islanders made the game close and were in striking distance throughout. However, the biggest mistake of the night was a dagger to any hopes of a comeback. With seconds left in the second period, the Islanders turned over the puck at the blue line and allowed Lightning forward Nick Paul to fire a quick shot past Sorokin to make the score 4-2. Under Trotz, one of the team’s strengths was disciplined play, but a few games into the new season, the roster is already seeing that strength dwindle.

Sorokin’s Tough Night in the Net

Entering this season, many saw Sorokin as one of the frontrunners to win the Vezina Trophy. While he’s one of the best goaltenders in the NHL, his past two starts have been ones he’d like to forget. Against the Devils, he allowed three goals on 42 shots, and against the Lightning, he allowed five goals on 26 shots. Sorokin has often carried the Islanders with his reliable play in the net, but his recent performance in particular let the team down and cost them a chance to come back in a game they never led.

Ilya Sorokin New York Islanders
Ilya Sorokin, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

A lot of the shots caught him by surprise with the Lightning finding quick scoring chances off turnovers and mistakes in the defensive zone. However, a few shots that Sorokin would typically save with ease slipped past him and found the back of the net. The bright side is that Sorokin will get a much-needed night off with the Islanders playing on a back-to-back, and Semyon Varlamov, who stepped up in the win over the San Jose Sharks, will start the upcoming game. However, the team will need their star goaltender to bounce back in his next start and help out a defense that has similarly struggled in recent games.

Pulock Adds Another Goal for the Defense

The positive note for the Islanders is their continued offensive production from their defense. After the defensive unit scored only 32 goals last season, 13 of which were scored by Noah Dobson, the unit has already scored seven goals only five games into the season. The recent one was a slap shot off the stick of veteran Ryan Pulock, which zipped past the glove of Elliott and gave the Islanders their third and final goal of the game.

Ryan Pulock New York Islanders
Ryan Pulock, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Last year, the Islanders missed Pulock’s presence as he missed multiple weeks with an injury. While his defensive instincts and ability to create turnovers in the defensive zone are among the best in the league, the most exciting part of his play this year is his shot in the offensive zone. The defensemen are finding more open ice in the offensive zone and are encouraged to help out the offense both on the rush and at the point. For Pulock, who has one of the best slap shots on the team, this will allow him to take advantage of more open looks on the net.

Other Takeaways From the Islanders’ Loss

  • Anthony Beauvillier scored his second goal of the season with a quick scoring chance on the rush. Under a new, fast-paced system, one of the skaters who can thrive the most is Beauvillier, who can gash opponents with his speed and skating ability.
  • The fourth line put together a strong game where they created turnovers in the offensive zone and looked sharp throughout the game. The fourth line is known for its ability defensively and as a checking line, but this season, they’ve started to look better offensively. Against the Lightning, Matt Martin scored the team’s first goal of the game largely because of the line’s ability to force a turnover and create an open shot in the center of the offensive zone.
  • The penalty kill remains a strength of the team. With three penalties successfully killed against the Lightning, the Islanders have yet to allow a power play goal, moving to 18 for 18 on the season.

What’s Next for the Islanders

The Islanders continue their road trip with a matchup against the Florida Panthers. Aside from being the second game of a back-to-back, this matchup looked to be another tough one for the Islanders. The Panthers defeated them on opening night at UBS Arena with a 3-1 victory and have looked like one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference to start the season with a 3-1-1 record.

The Islanders are 2-3 on the season but are suddenly facing an uphill battle in their season. They are in the middle of a road trip that has them playing some of the league’s best teams and could fall behind in a competitive Metropolitan Division.

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