TAMPA -- A three-day break was just what the New York Islanders needed.
The Islanders had three off-days after being routed 6-1 in Pittsburgh on Sunday night, and a well-rested team played its best defensive game of the season on the way to a 2-0 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.
"Whenever you have time to practice on some things, it helps for sure," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "We worked on conditioning, but at the same time, we worked on some other things we needed to work on. You can only show so much video. Our guys battled tonight. We had some injuries, some guys got banged up, but all 20 guys battled tonight."
Evgeni Nabokov stopped all 18 shots he faced and John Tavares scored a second-period goal on the Islanders' only power play of the game when he put a backhander into a wide-open net off a slick cross-crease pass from Matt Moulson at 10:22. Mark Streit's straightaway slapper deflected off Brad Boyes and came to Moulson, whose blind pass found Tavares for his 17th goal of the season and eighth on the power play.
"I got a great pass. It came right to me," Tavares said. "Moulson had his back to me and made a great pass. He drew the goalie to him and a couple of their guys and he probably could have put it in himself, but he made it easy and I just had to tap it in. It was easy for me.
"It was the only power play we had in the game, so to come through, it was a big goal and it was nice to contribute."
Boyes iced the win when he hit the empty net with 40 seconds remaining.
Nabokov stopped six shots in each period on the way to his second shutout of the season and the 54th of his career. It was the first shutout by the Islanders in Tampa since Oct. 14, 1998, and the first time this season the Lightning has been shut out.
"I thought this was a good game," Nabokov said, "but it's not like this is the first time we played good. A lot of games were actually pretty good. Sometimes we get the results, sometimes you don't, but that's the game. Today we got the result and we played solid."
It was the fourth straight home loss at home for Tampa Bay (11-15-1) while the Islanders (12-12-3) got back to .500 by shutting down one of the NHL's best offensive teams.
"We had a pretty good night tonight." Capuano said. "They had some chances and I thought we did a really good job with our sticks tonight. We got sticks on pucks. We tried to keep their skill guys to the outside and Nabokov made some saves when he had to. There aren't many nights when you can shut down those guys, so hats off to our guys for defending hard tonight."
Tampa Bay had two power-play chances in the game, one late in the second period when Streit was sent off for hooking, and another in the third when Frans Nielsen was whistled for holding -- but the Lightning managed only two shots in the four minutes with the extra man.
Lindback stopped 27 shots and faced much more pressure than Nabokov.
Tampa Bay has been outshot in each of its last seven periods, a fact that frustrated and mystified Lightning coach Guy Boucher.
"We just don't want to shoot when it's time," Boucher said. "I just had a video this morning about chances to shoot that we passed up and we did the same thing tonight. That I don't want to accept. The shots either go in or they create rebounds and chaos and that's where the goals are coming from so we have to generate more shots than that. We have to.
"We have extra hesitation when looking for option B or option C when option A is right there - the shot, and we're not taking it. That's frustrating for me as a coach. Tomorrow morning I might have a brain cramp and figure out something else, but the video didn't work. We have to put pucks on net."
Both teams play again on Saturday, when the Islanders conclude a three-game road trip against the Florida Panthers while Boucher and the Lightning continue a three-game homestand when they meet the Carolina Hurricanes.
"We'd take a bounce that came our way," Boucher said. "We just can't buy a goal. They got the one bounce and we did not. That's the story of our year. We can't get everything together on the same day. It's tough, very tough."
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