Lightning Make a Statement in Blowout Game 5 Win Over Islanders

That is how you seize control of a series.

On Monday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning bowled over the New York Islanders early and stepped on their throat until the final buzzer in an 8-0 swing game massacre. This wasn’t merely a convincing win. It was a blowout of epic proportions. Jon Cooper’s men enjoyed as many high-danger chances in the first period alone as New York mustered over the entire contest. Tampa Bay scored as many goals in Game 5 as it had produced in the previous three outings combined.

By the end of this lopsided victory, the Lightning had sent an emphatic message to their opponents: We’ve figured you out.

This seesaw third-round matchup had been relatively tight prior to Monday night, but Tampa Bay wasted no time asserting its dominance in Game 5. Only 45 seconds in, Steven Stamkos is granted all the time in the world because Ryan Pulock claims Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s assignment. Stamkos actually makes a poor decision on his centering pass, but the puck finds its way back onto his stick and into the gaping net:

Midway through the first period, Tampa Bay is once again gifted more space than it knows what to do with. During a puck battle along the boards, Scott Mayfield drifts way too high in the defensive zone, allowing Yanni Gourde to curl into the middle of the ice for an odd-man chance.

Much like Stamkos, Gourde doesn’t manage the puck intelligently, but a fortunate deflection puts the Lightning up by two:

Are these lucky goals? Sure, but you can’t let a powerful offense repeatedly stroll into the slot. If you play with fire, you’re going to get burned. New York got torched in Game 5.

Tampa Bay consistently found ways to generate speed, and the Islanders could only watch the action pass them by. Containing this team is akin to walking on a tightrope. There’s virtually no margin for error and you need to maintain a collective laser focus. When even a single player strays from the pack, it’s over. The floodgates come crashing down.

It was 3-0 after the opening frame. Frankly, it should have been at least 5-0:

Look at how easily and frequently the Lightning blazed down the ice to create opportunities on goal. Since the Islanders utilize a tenacious three-man forecheck to shelter a plodding blue line, they can be exploited if you get the puck past their first wave. In Game 5, they were caught with their pants down early and often.

Unfortunately for New York, the second period wasn’t any prettier. The Isles couldn’t buy a goal, and their belief was thus crushed before any semblance of a comeback could materialize:

New York doesn’t have a plan B. It plays hard and hopes to wear its opposition out over the long haul. It’s a war of attrition. Conversely, Cooper’s group can play any way it needs to—whether that means eye-popping displays of skill or nose-to-the-grindstone grunt work. With a sizable cushion in the second period, it didn’t even need its supernatural talent anymore. It just bullied New York in its own house:

The Islanders dug themselves an even deeper hole to close the frame. Mathew Barzal, one of the least chippy star forwards around, lost the plot and was ejected for a cross-check to Jan Rutta’s head:

The act itself and the ensuing contact with an official could land him in trouble with the Department of Player Safety. That is salt in an already significant wound.

Since a promising start to this series, little has gone right for the Islanders.

Pageau, who was downright brilliant against the Boston Bruins, has been a shell of himself following an undisclosed injury in Game 2. The top pairing of Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech has been shelled to the tune of 3.82 goals against per 60 minutes. The second line of Brock Nelson, Josh Bailey and Anthony Beauvillier has failed to provide much secondary scoring. After tallying seven times in his first 12 playoff contests with the Isles, Kyle Palmieri has gone pointless against the Lightning. Neither Semyon Varlamov (90.7 SV%) nor Ilya Sorokin (84.4 SV%) have offered much resistance to Tampa Bay’s attack.

On the flip side, the Lightning’s outlook improves with every passing game. The power play remains deadly (39.2%). Brayden Point is now riding an eight-game goal scoring streak. Nikita Kucherov could somehow challenge Wayne Gretzky’s single-playoff assist record…in 2021. The second forward unit has come alive. Blake Coleman and Yanni Gourde are still as effective as ever. Finally, Andrei Vasilevskiy (2.05 GAA, 93.6 SV%) notched his third shutout of the postseason and is solidifying his status as the best netminder in the league.

This was a swing game in the truest sense of the term. With their season hanging in the balance, the Islanders will need to conjure a monumental effort against a Lightning squad that now holds all the momentum.

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