UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Quick transitions, attention to detail and taking advantage of the situation made the difference in the New York Islanders building a four-goal lead Monday afternoon.
A short spurt of exhaustion, at least according to coach Jack Capuano, leading to a weak battle level, nearly blew it all up.
The Islanders held on for a 4-3 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Nassau Coliseum despite giving up three goals in less than six minutes early in the third period.
Michael Grabner, Matt Martin, Kyle Okposo and David Ullstrom had goals for the Isles, who scored four times in a span of 14:41 bridging the second and third periods. Tampa Bay drew within one with 12 minutes left in the third period on goals by Martin St. Louis, Benoit Pouliot and Steven Stamkos, but the Islanders shut the door to preserve their first win of the season.
Capuano was back behind the bench after missing Saturday's season opener due to kidney stones.
"We had a little bit of a lull there, obviously, but found a way to turn it around and get back to doing some things we were doing well," said John Tavares, who assisted on two of the Islanders goals. "We got some more chances offensively after that. We shut the door. We drew a couple of penalties. I'm happy with the way we responded after that few minutes where we were just off our game."
Lightning coach Guy Boucher said he was frustrated with how many breakaways and odd-man rushes his team allowed in the second period.
Grabner and Martin each scored on breakaways and Okposo converted on a 2-on-1 rush with Tavares to make it 3-0 after two periods. Ullstrom's goal 1:31 into the third was a result of pressure by the Islanders that led to a pretty give-and-go with Keith Aucoin off the rush.
"We were trying to get the goal. We were being impatient," Boucher said. "All we had to do was stay patient, stick to what we we're doing, but [we were] being a lot more aggressive in terms of shooting the puck from everywhere instead of trying to skill it.
"We were trying to find guys with passes and there was no space there. We were stubborn and stubborn. We weren't getting the scoring chances that the guys were expecting and it frustrated them. Then we had three guys down low and it cost us 3-on-2s. We had four guys down low and got caught on 2-on-1s and breakaways. Impatience, that's what it was."
When the Lightning finally did get their chances, they buried them.
St. Louis scored from the left circle less than a minute after Ullstrom's goal. Pouliot cleaned up a loose puck in front by pushing it past Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov (23 saves), and then 32 seconds later Stamkos hammered a one-timer from below the left circle.
"We can tend to make that extra pass and forget just what a simple shot on net does from anywhere," Lightning forward Ryan Malone told NHL.com. "A lot of those goals were throwing the puck at the net, the garbage goals, playoff-type goals that we need more of."
The flurry of goals only made Boucher's ire grow. He knows his team can score in bunches like that to win a game, but Monday, because of their defensive breakdowns, all it did was draw them close.
"We were the top team in the League the last two years in comebacks in the third period," Boucher said. "If we're only one goal behind or even two, we know we can do it. We scored three. We just needed to keep it tight until the third period and we didn't do that."
The Islanders, who start a five-game road trip Thursday in Toronto, used their power play to get on the board. Mark Streit connected with Grabner on a home-run pass that led to a breakaway goal 6:50 into the second period.
It was Grabner's first goal of the season. He was held to 20 goals last season after breaking out with 34 in 2010-11.
"I don't think he's thinking as much offensively," Capuano said of Grabner, who also had a couple of solid scoring chances Saturday in a season-opening 2-1 loss to New Jersey. "He's taking his opportunities, going to the net, and he's making a quick decision with the puck on his hockey stick."
Martin and Okposo scored 72 seconds apart later in the second period to give the Isles their 3-0 lead at the second intermission.
Martin scored on a breakaway with 3:37 left. He was stepping out of the penalty box following a two-minute minor for holding when Tavares found him with a blind pass into the neutral zone. He beat Lighting goalie Anders Lindback (40 saves) with a quick forehanded shot from between the hash marks.
"I'm not much of a dangler, so I usually get the shot off as quick as I can," Martin said. "It worked out great for me. Coming out of the box, Johnnie clears the puck and it's pretty well right on my tape. Not a whole lot of time to think about what I'm going to do; just go in and let it rip."
Capuano used his timeout after Stamkos' goal made it 4-3 with 12 minutes left, and the Islanders responded by going back to playing a more disciplined and quick game.
"A lot of guys stayed with it," Capuano said.
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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