The Islanders have been a second-period team for the entire postseason, owning a league-high plus-10 goal differential in the middle frame heading into Game 4 of the Stanley Cup semifinals.
They added three to that number Saturday night, which propelled the Islanders to a 3-2 win over the Lightning at Nassau Coliseum. After a scoreless first period, the Islanders took charge of the game and, behind goals from Josh Bailey, Mathew Barzal and Matt Martin, took a commanding 3-0 lead over Tampa Bay heading into the final 20 minutes.
“Obviously, we had a huge surge in the second period,” head coach Barry Trotz said after the win, which evened the series 2-2 heading into Game 5 on Monday night in Tampa.
“Our game was good. I know that we probably had more chances when I look at the game. Our 60-minute game was pretty decent other than the seven or eight minutes where they surged on us.”
The Lightning, who scored twice early in the third period to pull within one before falling short, gave up as many goals in the second period Saturday as they had allowed in their previous four road games combined. It was just the sixth time Tampa Bay has given up three or more goals this postseason.Josh Bailey celebrates with teammates after scoring a second-period goal in the Islanders’ 3-2 win over the Lightning.Getty Images
“The second period can be dangerous for any team, in terms of getting guys stuck out there” said Martin, who scored the game-winner at 17:57 of the third. “I think we’re a team that likes to get the puck in on the forecheck and be physical and kind of roll lines over. I think we have a lot of unselfish guys and make changes at the right time that give the next line a good opportunity to score a goal.
“I think it’s the physicality of hemming teams in, trying to use that to our advantage as much as possible.”
Trotz has seen the evolution of the Lightning firsthand.
After defeating Tampa Bay in seven games in the 2018 conference final on the way to his first Stanley Cup with the Capitals, Trotz knows exactly what has changed about the Lightning since then. And considering the Lightning had to defeat the Islanders to get to their Stanley Cup win last season in the bubble playoffs, Trotz likely knows better than most how Tampa Bay has sustained its success as well.
“To me, the biggest evolution, [from] an opposing coach, they went out and they got balanced,” Trotz said. “They can beat you with a grind game and a defensive game. I think in the earlier years, they weren’t going to beat you with the defensive game, they would get frustrated if they didn’t outscore you. To me, they’ve got a really great balance.”
The Islanders have a league-leading six players with 10 or more points this postseason: Jean-Gabriel Pageau (13), Josh Bailey (13), Anthony Beauvillier (12), Mathew Barzal (12), Brock Nelson (12) and Jordan Eberle (10).