Let’s empty the thesaurus for this one:
The Islanders were blown out Monday night. They were dusted. They were drubbed. They were dragged. They were squashed, quashed and crushed. They were hammered and humbled and humiliated. They were bludgeoned, battered, bloodied, bashed, blasted, bombed, buried …
“A loss is a loss,” Kyle Palmieri said.
Still — oh, man — what a loss.
It ended Lightning 8, Islanders 0. It felt like Lightning 18, Islanders 0. Tampa Bay had one of those nights when it looked like they were on the power play — and a five-on-three one at that — even when both teams were full strength. It was a mismatch. It was a mauling. It was a mangling. It was a massacre.
“We just have to park it,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said.
And here’s the thing about playoff series: It isn’t just idle talk when you opt for the short-memory strategy — or at least it doesn’t have to be. The Lightning sure seem a lot better than the Islanders right now, but they still have to win one more game, and don’t get to borrow against those eight goals. It may not seem likely. But it is possible.
We learned that very lesson around here the past two weeks. The Nets beat the Bucks in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals by 39 points, 125-86, to go up 2-0 in the series. Yes, Kyrie Irving got hurt in Game 4. Yes, James Harden was hobbled. But when the Nets led Game 2 by 123-74 — that’s 49 points if you don’t have a calculator handy — it sure seemed the Nets could finish the Hawks by letting Foots Walker run the show — and ol’ Foots just turned 70 last month.
But the Nets didn’t finish the Bucks.
The Celtics didn’t finish the Lakers after the most famous blowout in NBA history, the Memorial Day Massacre of May 27, 1985, when Boston, defending champs (and, at that moment, a perfect 8-0 against LA in the Finals), stomped Showtime 148-114. The parade route was already mapped out — but the Lakers won the series in six.
The Braves didn’t finish the Yankees in the 1996 World Series, despite filleting the Bombers 12-1 in Game 1 of the ’96 Series (and following that up nicely with a 4-0 tap-out in Game 2). Then Joe Torre famously declared, “Atlanta is my town!” to a nervous George Steinbrenner and the Yankees never lost again.
The Yankees, actually, are a wonderful case study for the Islanders right now. It is impossible to forget that when the Yankees went up 3-0 in the 2004 ALCS, the game that got them there was a 19-8 annihilation of the Red Sox at Fenway Park in Game 3; the Yanks could have used a few of those runs in Games 4, 5, 6 and 7.
Then there was the 1960 World Series, which Bill Mazeroski famously won for the Pirates in the bottom of the ninth of Game 7, but which featured Yankees victories of 16-3 (Game 2), 10-0 (Game 3) and 12-0 (Game 6). The Yanks outscored the Bucs 45-26, but that didn’t keep Mickey Mantle from weeping in his locker after Game 7.
Football is a bit harder to figure because of the one-and-done nature of the playoffs. But the Jets did beat the Patriots in Foxboro in the 2010 playoffs 28-21 exactly 41 days after getting pulverized 45-3 in the same stadium. And notable for a different reason: The Giants did smear the 49ers 49-3 in the 1986 playoffs before getting hammered in Week 4 the next year, 41-21.
That one does come with an asterisk since it was the first week of Scab Football. But it is notable because ABC’s “Monday Night Football” cameras caught Bill Parcells laughing on the sidelines during the game, taken by the absurdity of it all. And it featured an all-time quote from Parcells’ personal reserve that feels especially relevant right now:
“I’m not having fun, but what are you gonna do? My father told me it doesn’t cost any more in this life to be happy. You can go around being miserable, but for the same price you may as well smile.”
That might not be bad advice for Trotz to borrow and dispense between now and when the puck drops at Nassau Coliseum at 8 p.m. Wednesday. The Islanders can also benefit from studying their own history: In 1980, the Flyers (every bit the Isles’ physical masters as the Lightning seem to be now) crushed them 8-3 in Game 2 of the Cup Finals.
Nine days later, Bobby Nystrom took a pass from John Tonelli 7:11 into OT in Game 6. The Islanders had officially parked Game 2.
(In the interest of fairness, we should also point out that the first three of the Dynasty Isles’ four straight titles began with epic playoff-opening blowouts of the Kings (8-1 in ’80), Maple Leafs (9-2 in ’81) and Penguins (8-1 in ’82). Those teams never quite recovered and the Islanders skated over their grease spots all the way to the Cup …)
Hey, we didn’t say it was a guarantee. We’re simply paraphrasing Lloyd in “Dumb and Dumber”: We’re telling you there’s a chance.