TAMPA — There was something poetically haunting about the way that the Tampa Bay Lightning scored the game-winning goal against the New York Islanders to end their season just short of a Stanley Cup Final appearance, again, in a 1-0 Game 7 loss.
It came with the Islanders on the power play, which had been their Achilles heel all season long and into the postseason. The Islanders had a chance to swing the momentum in their favor and instead watched a golden chance turn into a heartbreaking nightmare.
In an ironic twist of fate, the Islanders had been creating some chances on the man-advantage before Tampa was able to clear the zone and Anthony Cirelli took the puck into the Islanders’ end, and along the boards. Three New York Islanders followed suit and Yanni Gourde hopped over the board as Tampa changed their penalty killers.
No one picked up Gourde as he flew into the slot and beat Semyon Varlamov over his glove.
— NHL on NBC Sports (@NHLonNBCSports) June 26, 2021
“I don’t know if it’s more frustrating. It’s disappointing because that was an opportunity to hopefully do something against them,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said about the play. “It’s a little bit of awareness. Gourde came off the bench real quick… we weren’t paying enough attention and it ended up in the back of the net.”
Ultimately that was all Tampa Bay needed to dispatch the New York Islanders from the postseason and end their fairy tale run that had captivated its fanbase and provided hope to ending the New York sports championship drought. The Islanders had only converted on 10 of their 48 power play chances entering Game 7 and during the regular season, they had found the back of the net just 27 times on 144 opportunities.
While the power play struggled to score during the year, the opposing team’s penalty kills very rarely scored on the Islanders shorthanded.
“It’s still kind of sinking in. The loss, it hurts,” said Josh Bailey, who had been on the ice when Tampa scored. “Game 7 of the conference final, you have thoughts of obviously wanting to move on and accomplishing something with this group and winning a cup. It wasn’t in the cards this year. It’s a tough pill to swallow.”
It was the second consecutive year that the Islanders fell just short of reaching the Cup Final in heartbreaking fashion.