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2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 2, Game 1: Bolts dig hole, rally falls short, drop opener 5-3

A spate of defensive lapses and an uncharacteristically poor outing from goalie Ben Bishop combined as the Tampa Bay Lightning dug themselves a hole they couldn't quite climb out of, falling behind 4-1 and eventually losing 5-3 to the New York Islanders in the opening game of their second round playoff series.

Nikita Nesterov fights for puck possession in the Lightning's 5-3 loss in Game 1 of their series with the New York Islanders
Nikita Nesterov fights for puck possession in the Lightning's 5-3 loss in Game 1 of their series with the New York Islanders
Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports Images

The New York Islanders beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-3 at Amalie Arena in Tampa Wednesday night.

A presumably well-rested Lightning team got off to a strong start, including the much-coveted opening goal. Then some shoddy defense created opportunities for the Islanders and Vezina finalist Ben Bishop (more on that in the Game Notes) wasn't up to the task of rescuing the Lightning from themselves. A furious rally in the second half of the third period made things close but in the end, it wasn't enough.

"Obviously not the start we want, but at the same time we have been in this position before. We know we have to bounce back from this. Obviously, the first two periods are something we have to clean up. In the third, you know, we played a lot better. We had opportunities and chances to tie it up, but we put ourselves into a big hole tonight.and going into the third like that is tough to get back from, but we almost got there." - Victor Hedman

Ondrej Palat opened the scoring for the Lightning at 3:05 of the first, getting help from Jonathan Drouin and Vladislav Namestnikov.

Then, bad things began to happen.

"We started turning pucks over in the neutral zone. We started getting a little too cute, I think, and when we did, we didn't compete to get the puck back necessarily as hard as we were accustomed to. Those are big no-no's this time of year." - Brian Boyle

While the six days between series allowed the Lightning to get some rest, they're still banged up and missing key players Steven Stamkos, Anton Stralman and JT Brown. Another bite was taken out of the roster when Eric Condra left the game after being injured on a hit from Casey Cizikis at 4:46.

"I don't know if it's the days off; I think our bodies feel good and everything. I think it is a different series and a different team we are going against. I think there was a lot more time and space than what we realized at the beginning and we were trying to rush things too much and when we were doing that, we weren't executing." - Tyler Johnson

The Islanders tied the game just under a minute later at 5:44 when what looked like a relatively harmless shot from Travis Hamonic somehow fluttered past Bishop. Alan Quine and John Tavares were credited with assists.

Defensive gaffs resulted in the next two Islander goals, with Shane Prince scoring on assists from Ryan Strome and Brock Nelson scoring at 17:28 and that same line striking again with just three seconds remaining in the period.

After one, the Lightning found themselves down 3-1.

At 8:59, Tavares scored on the power play with helpers from Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen to make it 4-1 and end Bishop's night. He departed having allowed four goals on just 13 shots.Andrei Vasilevskiy would go on to stop all eight of the shots he saw in relief.

At 7:41 of the third, the Lightning halved the deficit thanks to a goal from Nikita Kucherov, assisted by Matthew Carle and Alex Killorn.

Sparked by that goal, the re-focused Lightning made a serious push and dominated play the rest of the way.

At 17:28, just after the completion of an unsuccessful power play, Valtteri Filppula scored to cut the lead to a single goal. Killorn and Jason Garrison contributed assists.

That's as close as they would get, however. Vasilevskiy was pulled for the extra skater at 18:21 and Cal Clutterbuck closed it out for New York with and empty netter with 55 seconds left.

Game notes:

  • The Lightning are 7-12 all-time in Game 1's, including 4-6 at home.
  • They're now 58-51 all-time in playoff games, with a 27-27 mark at home.
  • This is the second time the Islanders and Lightning have met in the postseason, matching up previously in the opening round of the 2004 playoffs.
  • The Islanders held a 2-1 series edge in the regular season.
  • Kucherov scored his 17th playoff goal and is now 4th on Tampa Bay's all-time postseason goals-scored list.
  • This was the first time a Lightning opponent has scored in the first period this postseason.
  • The Lightning are the first team since 2006 to advance to the second round of the playoffs without their regular season scoring leader (Stamkos) and only the fifth team to do it since 1984.
  • This was the first time this postseason that Bishop has allowed more than two goals in a game.
  • The Bolts penalty kill surrendered their second goal this postseason. They're 27 of 29 (93.1%) overall.
  • Shortly after the puck dropped, the NHL announced that Bishop is a finalist for the Vezina trophy. From a press release issued by the L "Ben Bishop of the TBL, Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals and Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings are the three finalists for the 2015-16 Vezina Trophy, which is awarded "to the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at his position," the National Hockey League announced today. The general managers of the 30 NHL clubs submitted ballots for the Vezina Trophy at the conclusion of the regular season, with the top three vote-getters designated as finalists. The winner will be announced Wednesday, June 22, during the 2016 NHL Awards, hosted by actor Will Arnett, at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. - Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning  - After establishing a career high and franchise record with 40 victories in 2014-15, Bishop shared fourth place in the NHL with 35 wins this season. He also surpassed Nikolai Khabibulin (83) as the winning goaltender in Lightning history, finishing the campaign with 115 for Tampa Bay. Bishop paced the NHL with a 2.06 goals-against average and ranked second with a .926 save percentage, both career highs and single-season franchise records. His six shutouts also were a career high and tied for second place in the League. Bishop is a Vezina finalist for the second time after a third-place finish in 2013-14."
  • The Lightning honored Tony Colton as the 45th Lightning Community Hero of the 2015-16 season during the first period of tonight's game. Colton, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to All Children's Hospital, the Pediatric Cancer Foundation and Sarasota Christian High School. Sarasota Christian High School 10th grade student Tony Colton knows more about cancer than anyone at his age should. Since 2011, Colton has been diagnosed with cancer four different times and has endured nearly a dozen surgeries. He was first diagnosed with liver cancer at the young age of 11. While having his own courageous journey, Colton has been steadfastly focused on the needs of others going through similar situations. Colton has captivated his doctors, donors and other patients with his devotion to bringing awareness to issues facing pediatric cancer centers. One of his most recent efforts convinced All Children's Hospital staffers to install a weight-gaining station at the hospital where patients can make their own protein-packed milkshakes. Colton has also raised thousands of dollars to help other patients going through similar treatments to help pay for their expenses so their families can see them. Colton becomes the 224th Lightning Community Hero since Jeff and Penny Vinik introduced the program in 2011-12 with a $10 million, five-season commitment to the Tampa Bay community. Through this evening's game, in total, the Lightning Foundation has granted $11.35 million to more than 300 different non-profits in the Greater Tampa Bay area.