In Game 4 of their semifinal series, the New York Islanders fended off a late rally by the Tampa Bay Lightning to earn a 3-2 victory. They tied the series at two wins apiece and carried a little bit of momentum into Game 5. That momentum dissipated on Monday, as Tampa Bay dominated en route to an 8-0 blowout win.
Now the Islanders face elimination in Game 6, and Tampa has the momentum firmly in hand. Virtually no aspect of the game went well for New York.
The Islanders couldn't stop the scoring frenzy, and a frustrated Mathew Barzal was ejected for cross-checking Jan Rutta.
Barzal won't be suspended for Game 6, a game the Islanders must win if they hope to reach the Stanley Cup Finals.
2021 NHL Semifinal Game 6
Tampa Bay Lightning at New York Islanders
When: Wednesday, June 23
Time: 8 p.m. ET
TV and Live Stream: NBCSN, Peacock
Line: Tampa Bay -1.5
*Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook
The good news for the Islanders is that they'll be playing in front of the home crowd in Game 6—though they're only 1-1 at home in this series. The bad news is that any carry-over from the Game 5 loss could cost New York a chance at a championship.
The Islanders cannot afford to make the same mistakes they did two nights ago. They must be disciplined, aggressive and a lot more determined than they were on Monday.
"If we were in the backyard with all the guys having a cold one, you would hear them all say the same thing: That wasn't us, that wasn't our game, we're better than that," Trotz said, per Mollie Walker of the New York Post.
Monday night was a disaster, and the 8-0 loss was the most lopsided in Islanders playoff history.
While the Lightning are happy to have regained the momentum, they also expect to see a better version of New York on Wednesday night.
"We're sure we're going to get their best, so we've got to raise our game to another level once again, and we're super excited to be in this situation," defenseman Victor Hedman said, per Eduardo A. Encina of the Tampa Bay Times.
The Lightning are not simply going to walk into their second-consecutive Stanley Cup Finals appearance. New York has shown its resiliency before.
The last time Tampa Bay had the series momentum—following back-to-back wins in Games 2 and 3—it quickly found itself in a 0-3 second-period deficit. A sluggish start like the one the Lightning had in Game 4 could easily lead to the series going back to Tampa for Game 7.
Tampa Bay is 0-4 this postseason when it doesn't score first. The Lightning are 11-1 when they do.
It's win-or-go-home for the Islanders, win-and-move-on for the Lightning. Whoever wins, there's a good chance that this game will be decided in the early stages.
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