The defending champion Lightning were up 6-0 in the closing seconds of the second period when Rutta and Barzal exchanged words on the way to the bench.
Barzal hit him in the chest with his stick and then in the face, causing the defenseman to fall to the ice. The trainer came out to check on him and Rutta eventually skated off on his own, but did not come out for the third period. Lightning coach Jon cooper had no update after the game.
“I was a little disappointed because it wasn’t going well and he dug it a little deeper for the guys,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said of Barzal’s infraction.
It’s possible that Barzal will only be fined $5,000 for his infraction, but if he has to sit out a game, it would be a big blow to an Islanders team trying to stay alive at home in Game 6 on Wednesday. After being shut out in the first eight playoff games, Barzal has six goals in the last nine games.
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos scored 45 seconds in after the puck came to him on a fortuitous bounce for his first goal of the series.
“We were talking about our line internally that we wanted to be better and we certainly were tonight, so it was great to see,” he said. “Anytime something that good happens early in a game, it’s always a great feeling as a player. But more important, it was a spark … for our team.”
Tampa Bay piled on, with goals by Yanni Gourde (on a puck that deflected off an Islanders defenseman) and Alex Killorn leading Trotz to pull goalie Semyon Varlamov.
Backup goalie Ilya Sorokin took a puck to the throat and stayed in the game, but the Lightning solved him, too, scoring three times in the second period. Stamkos and Killorn added their second goals of the game.
Brayden Point made it 7-0 in the third period on the Barzal major penalty to extend his goal-scoring streak to eight games. Defenseman Luke Schenn scored the final goal in his first game since June 3.
The eight goals were the most allowed by the Islanders since an 8-2 loss to the Lightning in Game 1 of the 2020 eastern Conference final.
“No one expected an 8-0 game, let’s be honest there,” Stamkos said. “But you earn everything you get. And now we’re going to get an extremely desperate team and they’re a proud group over there. We know their rink is going to be rocking.”
Said Islanders forward Josh Bailey: “We know the way we need to play to have success, and this game, we’re going to put behind us.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Islanders’ Mathew Barzal ejected for cross-checking Jan Rutta