to Cooper’s displeased expression.
“That first five minutes set the tone for us — actually, the first shift,” he said. “We throw it on the bench in the first couple of seconds, take the penalty and then can’t kill it off.”
That penalty, a high-stick from defenseman Erik Cernak, turned into a power-play goal for forward Brock Nelson 1:21 in.
Forward Cal Clutterbuck made it 2-0 at 4:27 on a shot that deflected off Andrei Vasilevskiy’s skate and bounced into the net. Just 36 seconds later, defenseman Devon Toews made it 3-0. He picked up a loose puck and scored from the point.
After that, the Islanders were able to play conservatively to protect their lead rather than really having to attack the Lightning.
Stralman stressed the need to play better defense overall. It’s something he has said before. He hasn’t been the only one to say that, but he might have put it the strongest when he said forwards may have to sacrifice a goal or two in order to be sharper on defense.
Sunday, Stralman said the offense has overshadowed the Lightning’s defects. Tampa Bay has won games it could have lost because it’s a high-scoring team. That won’t cut it in the playoffs, though.
“We’re not as strong as we need to be going into the playoffs,” Stralman said. “Looking ahead, coming back from the bye week and the (All-Star) break (at the end of the month), we have to move towards a game that will carry us in the postseason. This is not it.”
That’s the reaction to a loss like this — not just that the Lightning wasn’t good enough to win Sunday but that that kind of effort definitely won’t be good enough to win in the long haul when the losses mean more. The Lightning wants to be more than a good regular-season team. The league’s top team is looking forward to a long run in the postseason.
“It wasn’t just one or two guys in the first period (Sunday), it was everybody,” McDonagh said. “That’s a recipe for disaster, and (the Islanders) took advantage of it.”