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Lightning quick: Tampa takes dominating Game 1 over Islanders

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Tampa Bay Lightning Goal

At long last, the New York Islanders played their first Eastern Conference Final game in 27 years. But it didn’t come with the result they wanted.

Brayden Point and Yanni Gourde each scored twice as the Tampa Bay Lightning took command of the series with a dominating 8-2 victory over New York in the first game.

Thomas Greiss, whose heroics got the Islanders to the NHL’s final four, was pulled halfway through the first period after allowing three goals on nine shots.

In relief of Greiss, Semyon Varlamov didn’t fare any better and yielded five goals on 25 chances.

Barry Trotz told reporters after the game he expects the team to bounce back quickly.

“I’ve seen the commitment level that comes from the group,” Trotz said. “To me, we’ll wash it away. We’ve lost some heartbreakers in overtime, some real hard matches. Sometimes you get it handed to you like we did today — it’s still a loss. We’ve just got to regroup.

“I know we’re going to be better next game. We’ll raise our level.”

And now for the first time in these playoffs, the Islanders face a series deficit. Game 1 also marked the first time this postseason the team lost a game by more than one goal.

They’ll get a chance to even things up in Game 2, which is scheduled for Wednesday at 8 p.m.

“We’ve played them before, we know how they play,” Jordan Eberle said. “It’s one of those games they get a chance, we made a mistake, they get a chance, they hit the back of our net. … This is a best of seven, this isn’t over.”

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After Saturday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers, that gave the Islanders just Sunday and part of Monday to travel to the Edmonton and prepare for this series.

Tampa, which had a week off, had a league-leading 3.47 goals per game during the regular season and had averaged 3.00 goals a contest their first rounds of these Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Even with Steven Stamkos out for the series, Tampa generated plenty of offense Monday and went 3-for-6 on the power play.

Using that high octane offense from the outset, Point got on the board quickly in the first period. He skated around Ryan Pulock and made a power move in front of the net to beat Greiss at 1:14.

But the Islanders tallied one on the power play to answer back. With the puck loose in front of the net, Jordan Eberle beat Andrei Vasilevskiy to snap an 11-game goal-less drought.

From there, however, Tampa Bay never looked back and potted two goals from defensemen, one on the man advantage from Victor Hedman and then at 5-on-5 from Ryan McDonagh.

The latter score chased Greiss, who had allowed just three goals on 75 shots against in the postseason.

“Great move by Point to start it off and a couple of snipes to follow it up pretty quickly after,” Anders Lee said. “It’s not Thomas’s fault by any means.”

Four minutes into the second, Tampa Bay padded its lead with a third unanswered goal when Gourde chipped one into a near empty net past Varlamov. Back on the power play later in the period, Point scored his second goal of the night on a redirection in front of the net on a point shot from Hedman.

Already down handedly on the scoreboard with 8:25 left in the second period, the New York Islanders lost a key piece of their fourth line. Cal Clutterbuck blocked a shot from Mikhail Sergachev and left for the dressing room. He returned to the bench early in the third but walked back to the dressing room again before taking a shift.

Trotz did not have an update on Clutterbuck’s status after the game.

Tampa asserted more control in the third and got goals from Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat and Gourde.

For the Islanders, Nick Leddy recorded his third goal of the playoffs.

Vasilevskiy earned the win with 22 saves on 24 shots.

“There’s a lot of things we have to correct, but we’re a good hockey team,” Eberle said. “There’s a reason why we’re here. We’ve just gotta regroup, we’ve got a veteran group and we will (regroup).”

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New York Islanders

Coach Boychuk? Former Defenseman Helps Coaches During Islanders Practice

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Johnny Boychuk

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — There was a familiar face on the ice at Northwell Ice Center. Johnny Boychuk helped out the New York Islanders coaching staff during Saturday’s practice as the team prepared for Sunday’s game against the New Jersey Devils.

Boychuk ended his 13 year NHL career in November due to an eye injury and was placed on LTIR at the start of this season. Saturday was not Boychuk’s first time on the ice for practice, having worked with the taxi squad players and he had been on the ice at times during training camp.

Boychuk has been seen around the organization publically several times this week. On Monday, the MSG broadcast caught Boychuk sitting next to Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello in a suite at Nassau Coliseum.

His continued presence around the Islanders organization has been a welcomed one by the rest of the team.

“It’s great for us. We love Johnny,” Josh Bailey said after practice. “We’ll take him as much as we can get him. It would have been tough to just more or less go cold turkey and not see him. He’s been such a big part of our dressing room for a long time. To get to have him out on the ice with us and to see him on a daily basis has been really great.”

Additionally, Boychuk had been skating with Mathew Barzal while he and the team sorted out his new contract the first week of training camp.


Josh Bailey became the first Islander to deal head-on with a COVID-related issue this season.

The veteran forward missed a day of practice this week and was briefly on the COVID-protocol list before returning to the lineup the following day. Bailey, along with the rest of the team, has been adhering to the COVID protocols, but potentially came into contact with the virus after his youngest son’s teacher tested positive for COVID-19.

A few days later when Bailey went to check on his son he noticed that he sounded a little sick and had a bit of a cough, the Islanders forward said. They had him tested and it came back positive for the virus.

The result ended up being a false positive and Bailey’s son tested negative twice over the following two days.

“For a couple of days there it was touch and go, but at the same time it all worked out,” Bailey said.

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New York Islanders

BACK AT THE BARN: What It Was Like Being at an Empty Nassau Coliseum for a Game

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The New York Islanders home rink of Nassau Coliseum

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Prior to this week, the last time the New York Islanders had stepped foot on Nassau Coliseum ice was March 7, 2020. While it was only 10 months ago, in retrospect it seems like a lifetime ago.

COVID-19 had only just started to creep into the sports universe. What would transpire a week later wasn’t even imaginable at the time. So there was a sense of familiarity and brief normalcy when I walked into the Coliseum on Monday afternoon for the Islanders home opener against the Boston Bruins.

under normal circumstances, in January I am usually fully engulfed in the Islanders season. Weekends are planned around game and practice coverage, or that odd trip on the road with the Islanders. Instead, the first few months of the traditional hockey season were spent wondering if there would even be hockey games to cover at all.

To say I was looking forward to being at Monday’s game would be an understatement.

Nassau Coliseum exterior Walking into the Nassau Coliseum you were quickly reminded of the current state of the world. Signs about the need to wear a mask at all times inside the building were everywhere, as were Purell hand sanitizing stations. Security checked our temperature at the door and media members and staff entering had to fill out a COVID-19 questionnaire.

It’s a similar procedure for those of us that attend Islanders practices in person, so it had become a sort of second nature.

What was the most jarring thing on Monday was the quiet of the arena. Those of us covering games aren’t allowed into the Coliseum until an hour before game time, which would mean during normal times that the concourse would be bustling with fans and vendors selling overpriced beer and pretzels.

You would move at a snail’s pace trying to walk from the media gate to the press box elevators. Instead, it was a brisk walk onto the concourse and into the inner bowl where they have us set up to watch the games from. If there is any silver lining, then it’s the fact that we’re down a bit lower than where the Coliseum press box is, but I still enjoy watching from above to see how plays develop and get a different angle on the game.

The Islanders tried to keep the game presentation the same as they would if the building had been packed with fans. They blasted the music during warmups and during a stoppage of play — albeit at noticeably lower decibel than previously — pump-up videos were on the video board and goals and penalties were announced by the public address announcer.

Cardboard fans

And they pumped in crowd noise, which wasn’t all that bad and helped keep some figment of a normal game experience. When the Islanders faced the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, the volume of the crowd noise did not go over so well, but Monday on Long Island, it was done just right.

In fact, on Thursday during the Islanders 4-1 win over New Jersey, the fake crowd noise was almost nonexistent.

To that end, what was the oddest part of the whole experience so far was the emptiness of the Nassau Coliseum. Sure, people have their jokes about how empty the building has been in years past when the team wasn’t doing well, but at its best, the Coliseum is one of the toughest places to play in the NHL

In large part due to the fans that inhabit it. Adjusting to the calm and quiet, except for the music and fake noise, was something that took time.

Through all of the oddities, it was good to be back in an NHL rink.

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New York Islanders

Barzal Dazzles, Drives Isles in Win Over New Jersey | NYHN+

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Mathew Barzal

If there were any concerns about Mathew Barzal’s game because of his late arrival to training camp, the 23-year-old has quickly dispelled them with his dominant play on Thursday night.

It was Barzal’s three points (1g, 2a) along with linemate Jordan Eberle’s two goals that pushed the Islanders to a 4-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils at Nassau Coliseum.

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