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Bentivenga: Poor puck management leads to Isles’ Game 2 loss

The Islanders now sit on even terms with the Tampa Bay Lightning, as the defending Stanley Cup champions evened the series with a 4-2 win on Tuesday night. While the Bolts did play a solid game in game two, it’s hard to look past one glaring detail coming from the road team in this one: turnovers. 

Starting out from a purely statistical standpoint, this game was pretty sloppy compared to the near-flawless outing in game one.

In the series opener, the Isles turned the puck over only one time. While the Lightning were credited with eight takeaways, none of them resulted in the puck being fished out of the net. This game, however, was a different story. Four turnovers from the blue and orange in this one, as well as 10 takeaways for the home team.

So what was the difference in game two? Those turnovers cost the Islanders big time. 

It all started on the game’s opening goal.

Adam Pelech, who is generally pretty good at managing the puck in the defensive zone, throws one around the boards where it’s held in at the blue line by Bolts defender David Savard. Savard found Nikita Kucherov behind the net, who managed to thread the needle on a gorgeous spin-o-rama pass to Brayden Point. It was an impressive scoring play, but one that definitely could’ve been prevented. 

Tampa’s second tally wasn’t as glaring of a turnover as the first goal, but could be looked at as a turnover depending on who you ask. Scott Mayfield lightly dumped the puck in as he looked for a change, and Anthony Beauvillier was beaten to the puck by Bolts defender Jan Rutta. Rutta found Victor Hedman, who connected the dots with Kucherov on a long stretch pass. Kucherov did what he does best (creating scoring chances), as he found a streaking Ondrej Palat in the slot to make it 2-1. This play was more good fortune from the Bolts than anything else, and unlucky for the Isles; the Lightning also had seven skaters on the ice when this goal was scored.

Tampa’s third goal was similar to their first. Pelech goes for the wrap around the wall once again, and Anthony Beauvillier is slow to get to the puck. The play’s held in by Rutta, who would score on a rocket that beat Semyon Varlamov up over the blocker. 

“We’ve got to execute a little bit better and then we’ve got to battle that out, head coach Barry Trotz said. The third goal was a prime example of that. Too loose on the play, not enough execution and a little bit of everything on the exits. We’ve got to have those details and we didn’t have it.”

Well, there you have it folks… there’s two (debatably three) puck management lapses from the Islanders that would ultimately torch them when all was said and done.

Credit the Lightning, they played a solid game and got rewarded with the victory as a result. But when analyzing the goals they scored, it’s not completely asinine to say the Islanders beat themselves. There’s no denying the fact that Tampa boasts some of the most prolific offensive talents in the league. These guys don’t need much time and space to pick teams apart on their own, let alone getting gifts from their opponent.

Puck management is going to be key for the Islanders going forward. Or else that red light behind the net will be going off quite a bit. 

 

 

 

 

Follow Carter on Twitter at @cbentivenga14

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