TAMPA, Fla. — The end came quickly, and somewhat mercifully, Sunday for the Islanders, who acquitted themselves well against the Tampa Bay Lightning but will surely lament two crushing overtime home losses in this Eastern Conference semifinal series.
But the facts are these: After winning Game 1 here at Amalie Arena, the Islanders lost the next four, knocked out of the N.H.L. playoffs by a combination of superior Tampa Bay talent and tough luck. It culminated in a 4-0 shutout that ended the Islanders’ longest playoff run in 23 years and lifted the Lightning to their second consecutive appearance in the conference finals.
Tampa Bay will face the winner of the Pittsburgh-Washington series for a chance to reach the Stanley Cup finals.
Victor Hedman scored two goals and Brian Boyle had one as the Lightning took a 3-0 lead into the third period. After Nikita Kucherov scored on a breakaway early in third period, the thunderous celebration at Amalie Arena only grew louder as the crowd serenaded the Islanders with a rendition of “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” The Islanders had knocked off the No. 2 seed Florida Panthers in a riveting first-round series, and after a 5-3 victory here at Amalie Arena in Game 1, a run to the next round appeared possible.
But they could not crack Tampa Bay goaltender Ben Bishop, who stopped 28 shots, turning aside a few point-blank chances early that could have swung momentum to the Islanders. The Islanders’ Thomas Greiss made 25 saves, but he appeared under constant siege.
The Lightning opened a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by Hedman and Boyle in which both players simply outworked defenders.
With two Islanders converging on Kucherov behind the net, the puck came free directly in front of Greiss. Hedman poked it away from Kyle Okposo, quickly pirouetted and fired a wrist shot that beat Greiss on his glove side.
Boyle’s goal also originated behind the net, where Matt Carle was being chased. The Islanders’ eyes were still on Carle when Boyle appeared from the opposite direction and seemed to steal the puck from his teammate. Boyle wheeled around the net and took aim, and when the Islanders players turned their heads, he fired high over right shoulder of Greiss.