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Islanders: Three Takeaways from Game Three Loss to Lightning

PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA - MAY 18: Head coach Barry Trotz of the New York Islanders during the second period in Game Two of the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG PAINTS Arena on May 18, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA - MAY 18: Head coach Barry Trotz of the New York Islanders during the second period in Game Two of the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG PAINTS Arena on May 18, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
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New York Islanders
Semyon Varlamov #40 of the New York Islanders. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The New York Islanders brought a pretty good effort to Nassau Coliseum on Thursday night, but fell 2-1 in a tight-checking game three.

The New York Islanders fell 2-1 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in game three of their Stanley Cup semi-final matchup. The Isles now trail Tampa two games to one in the best-of-seven series, but they played a fairly good game. One that would likely be enough to win most nights, against most teams.

Here are three takeaways from the game three defeat at the Coli.

1. Islanders Were Good Enough to Win

It isn’t always easy to focus on positives after a loss such as Thursday’s game three. There wasn’t a lot of time or space on the ice at the Coliseum as both teams stuck to their game plans well by clogging up lanes, maintaining gaps, and generally playing a tight-checking brand of playoff hockey. But the Islanders didn’t play as poorly as many fans seemed to think.

Considering the chatter online, it would be easy to think Tampa suffocated the Islanders all game and defeated them handily in all situations. That wasn’t really the reality of the game, though.

Yes, Tampa shut things down well in the third period. They limited the Isles to basically no scoring chances in the final five minutes of regulation, and after New York pulled goalie Semyon Varlamov the Bolts 5v6 defense was magisterial in clogging the neutral zone and defending their own blue line.

But the final numbers from game three show that the Islanders were every bit a deserving winner who fell short on Thursday. According to Natural Stat Trick, New York finished with greater than 58% of the scoring chances (SCF%), high-danger chances (HDCF%), and expected goal (xGF%) shares, when adjusted for score and venue.

That may be little consolation after back-to-back losses in which the team has posted just three goals. But the advanced numbers are showing that the Islanders were in game three, and they’re still in this series.

NST’s series report shows that through three games in this semi-final series, the Islanders hold the upper hand in Fenwick For percentage (FF%), HDCF%, and xGF%.

Those numbers are also adjusted for score and venue to compensate for any scorekeeper biases that may exist at the Coliseum or Amalie Arena.

While those numbers aren’t everything, and yes teams have lost series despite leading in all those categories (just look at the Penguins and Bruins series), it’s an indicator that this series is far closer than many of the gloomy forecasts floating about online.

It also says that the Islanders are more than likely not done in this series, despite once again falling behind two games to one.

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