They battled and believed until the final horn of their 1-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals at Amalie Arena on Friday that it was their switch to break through this season.
So it hurt even more that they came up one goal, one win short and the Lightning advanced to the Stanley Cup Final at their expense for the second straight season.
After losing to the Lightning in six games in the Eastern Conference Final last season and watching them go on to win the Stanley Cup, the Islanders thought they were ready to take another step this year and reach the Stanley Glass Last for the first time since 1984. They pushed the best-of-7 series to the distance this time after a 3-2 overtime win in Game 6 on Wednesday but couldn’t find a way to break through in Game 7.
It came down to a single big mistake. The Islanders lost focus during a power enjoy and Yanni Gourde capitalized by scoring a shorthanded objective 1:49 into the second period. Semyon Varlamov stopped 30 of 31 photos to keep the Islanders within one goal, but they couldn’t get anything past goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy and a stifling Lightning defense that limited them to 18 pictures on objective and blocked 21 other attempts.
Barzal had the Islanders’ best possibility to tie it with 5:23 remaining when Scott Mayfield’s shot from the right point ricocheted off a player in front directly to Barzal to the left of the net. Barzal appeared to have a half-empty net in front of him, but he swung and missed at the bouncing puck.
There was a long wait before the Islanders emerged from what had clearly been an emotional postgame locker area. Barzal and Brock Nelson sat next to each other sniffing back tears while they tried to find the words to describe their disappointment. It was similar when Bailey and Mayfield spoke before them.
New York knew it had a thin margin for error if it were going knock off the defending champs. Tampa Bay won 8-0 in Video game 5, but it was a tight series otherwise, with five video games determined by one goal.
Trotz listed the Lightning’s impressive collection of players, from Vasilevskiy to a strong protection anchored by Victor Hedman and Ryan McDonagh, to skilled forwards such as Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos and grinding depth forwards such as for example Gourde, Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow.
The Islanders don’t have as many flashy names, however they have pieces that fit collectively well. Barzal, who led NY with five points in the series (three goals, two assists) is certainly emerging as a superstar, and the defense pair of Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock is slowly gaining recognition as one of the best in the NHL.