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Islanders Defensive Effort Not Where it Needed to be in Game 2 Loss

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New York Islanders lose

There was nothing pretty about the New York Islanders defensive effort in Game 2 against the Tamp Bay Lightning. A 4-2 loss saw a handful of defensive miscues, as both the team’s D pairings and forward lines did not do enough to stop the Tampa offense throughout the night.

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Whether it was a lack of communication or soft play along the boards, the defensive effort that had allowed the Islanders to make it this far for the second consecutive season did not show up Tuesday. When Tampa is on their game, they allow their opponents very little time and space to make effective plays, and when the Islanders are off of their game, well you get an effort like Tuesday.

Tampa Bay’s forecheck was impeccable in Game 2 and Islanders who rarely make mistakes seemed to be making them more often than not.

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The New York Islanders top defensive pair in Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock struggled to mimic their performance in Game 1, as the Tampa Bay top-line overwhelmed them. Even when they made good plays to get control of the puck, it was poor puck management that led to negative results.

Both players made mistakes on Tampa’s opening tally.

Pelech misfired his pass along the boards and put it too far out of reach for Anthony Beauvillier. As the puck came back in Pulock was tricked by a beautiful pass off the stick of Nikita Kucherov as Brayden Point was left all alone in front. Two big mistakes by the Islanders’ best.

To put it simply, it was just a bad pass by Pelech. Pulock did not know the pass by Kucherov even happened until the puck had already crossed the goal line. Neither read the play correctly and none of the forwards on the ice were able to help.

The next two goals came off of mistakes in their own zone. Ondrej Palat was left all alone creeping into the slot on the second goal of the game which made it 2-1. Two players in Nick Leddy and Mathew Barzal decided to put pressure on Kucherov on what seemed to be a situation that favored the Islanders, but poor coverage and a heads-up play made something out of nothing.

The New York Islanders seemed to be positioned well to stop Kucherov from making a play as he was outnumbered once he crossed the Islanders goal line. Due to a lack of communication and a slow line change, Palat was able to creep into the slot unguarded.

Once the puck was on his stick, he had the time and space to pinpoint his location and beat Semyon Varlamov off the left post and in. This goal gave the Lightning all the momentum they needed to pull away and comfortably win the hockey game.

“We’ve got to execute a little bit better,” said Barry Trotz when asked about the first two goals against. “You got to battle that out.”

Tampa’s third goal of the game saw Islanders puck watching rather than puck-attacking. Not one Islander was able to make a big play to get the puck out. Pelech’s board pass was not strong enough, while Beauvillier again could not reach the puck.

Josh Bailey seemed to have enough time to get in the shooting lane to block the slap shot off the stick of Ruuta from the point, yet turned his body as the shot came. Bailey’s positioning screened Varlamov as the puck whistled into the top left corner to make it 3-1.

It started with a weak play by Pelech as his reaction after the goal said it all. The pressure by the Tampa forwards gave him little time to make the play, which we saw earlier in the game as well.

“That was just too loose on the play and not enough execution,” said Trotz. “Your exits, you got to have those details and we did not have it”.

The fourth goal for the home team came on the power play, their fifth chance of the game. The Islanders fell victim to infractions Tuesday as they took 33 minutes worth of penalties. 23 of those minutes came from scrums (10-min misconduct to Leo Komarov). However 10 minutes worth of power-play time for the Lightning is too much to be giving up to a team of that caliber.

Whether you want to believe the calls were justified, five penalties were the result. Even though the penalty-kill units were excellent, allowing just one goal on those five chances, it exhausted Islander.

The Islanders’ lack of focus and lack of control in their own zone led to penalties all night long.

Heading into Game 3, the Islanders need to be better in their own zone. They have proven in all postseason how lethal they can be when they play to their defensive strengths and will need to get back to their game if they want to take the lead in this series on Thursday.

“We can be a lot better and we will be,” said Trotz

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