The New York Islanders dropped a 3-1 decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night at Amalie Arena. Derick Brassard scored the Isles sole goal of the night in a comeback bid that fell short, while Semyon Varlamov made 27 saves.
Brayden Point and Carter Verhaeghe scored for Tampa at even-strength while Steven Stamkos scored an empty-net goal to propel the Lightning to their sixth-straight win. The loss snapped the Islanders' five-game point streak.
"I thought [Tampa] played well defensively," Head Coach Barry Trotz said. "They didn't give us much. They were on top of us. Their back pressure was noticeable tonight... It was hard to get to the net. We've got to be a little more determined to get to the net. We did a lot of good things. We were one puck away."
Despite not getting in the win column, the Isles felt they put forth a hard-fought effort against a high-caliber opponent and by doing so, the result could have gone either way. Mathew Barzal had first period goal overturned on an offside challenge and also was stripped of the puck last minute on a breakaway while Brock Nelson struck iron in the second period.
Video: NYI Recap: Brassard scores in loss to Lightning
"It's one of those nights where it comes down to a couple of plays," Anders Lee said. "We had our chances and they had theirs. They were just able to convert. Other than that, overall, it's a solid game. We've just got to find a way to put a couple more in and tie it up at the end and force over time."
The Isles and Tampa grinded out a scoreless first period, but the Lightning held a 10-8 shot advantage heading into the first intermission. The Isles seemingly took a 1-0 lead with 37 seconds left in the period as Barzal roofed his shot over the shoulder of Andrei Vasilevskiy. The goal was immediately reviewed and overturned for offside as Barzal had jumped the zone before the chipped pass from Jordan Eberle had crossed the blueline.
The Lightning were quick to set the tone in the second period as Point scored on a breakaway 14 seconds in. Ryan Pulock's slapshot from the point ricocheted off of the boards and to Nikita Kucherov who sprung Point at the blueline where the Lightning forward jetted down ice and beat Varlamov with a slap shot.
With 3:31 left in the period, Nelson struck iron on a Grade A opportunity as the Isles nearly converted on the odd man rush. Pulock received a delay of game penalty with 1:18 left in the first period to give Tampa the first power play of the game. Fortunately, the Isles were able to kill off the Lightning's extra-man unit as it carried over into the third period. Tampa held a 10-5 shot advantage through 40 minutes of play.
Video: NYI@TBL: Brassard knocks in Bailey's feed
The Lightning doubled their lead 2-0 at 6:25 into the final frame. A miscommunication on coverage between Pulock and Eberle exposed a wide-open lane in front of the goal mouth for Verhaeghe to beat Varlamov.
The Isles got their first power play of the night and made the most of it as Kucherov was called for holding on Pulock at 10:17. Brassard positioned himself right in front of Vasilevskiy and shielded Lightning defenseman Mikail Sergachev away from the puck. Josh Bailey played the puck right to Brassard's stick as the forward jammed it past Vasilevskiy to give the Isles their first goal of the night and cut Tampa's lead down 2-1.
That was as close as the Islanders comeback bid came, as Stamkos secured the win for Tampa with 1:02 left in the game with an empty-netter.
Video: TBL 3 vs. NYI 1: Barry Trotz
SPECIAL TEAMS SHINE:
The Isles special teams' units prevailed against one of the NHL's most dominant teams in both the power play and penalty kill units. Brassard's power-play goal was the Isles second goal on the man advantage in the last three games and denied Tampa's fourth-ranked penalty kill unit in the NHL. The Isles have had the fewest power play opportunities in the NHL with 122. The next lowest team in the league is Anaheim who has had 145.
The Isles PK unit went 1-for-1 against Tampa, who has the fifth-best power play conversion in the NHL at 24.4%.
While the final result wasn't favorable, the Isles recognized the importance and impact of their special teams and how crucial those units will be as the season continues to tighten.
"We're just trying to put pucks on net and be on the same page," Brassard said of the power play. "We're not doing anything special out there. We know how important special teams are. We have 30 games left, the penalty kill, and power play are going to have to be really good for us to make playoffs."
Video: TBL 3 vs. NYI 1: Anders Lee
BRASSARD & BEAUVILLIER EXTEND POINT STREAKS:
Derick Brassard extended his point streak to three games with four points (2G, 2A) over that span. With a secondary assist, Anthony Beauvillier extended his point streak to five games (3G, 3A).
The Islanders conclude their two-game road trip against the Washington Capitals on Monday night at Capital One Arena. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m.