The New York Islanders bounced back with a big offensive effort on Monday night, lighting up the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2 at Barclays Center.
John Tavares led the way with three points (1G, 2A), but the Islanders secondary scoring didn't disappoint. Brock Nelson, Matt Martin, Johnny Boychuk and Ryan Pulock all found the back of the net, as the Islanders new lines found a rhythm in their first time out together.
“As a team, us in here knew Saturday wasn’t good enough,” Tavares said of the Islanders shutout loss on the weekend. “I really liked the way we responded… We were a lot hungrier, you could see us trying to create some pressure, create some turnovers and really be a unit of five and supporting each other.”
Even the Islanders who didn’t score were effective on Monday night. Anders Lee had a pair of breakaways, the Islanders’ penalty kill went 4-for-4 and Thomas Greiss, who gave up six goals against Tampa on March 25, was sharp, stopping 32-of-34 shots for the win.
“I thought we were pretty good tonight,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “We were physical, we were hard on their skill, we took away time and space. It was a deserving two points of our guys.”
The only downside of Monday’s win was the loss of Calvin de Haan, who was in pain after blocking a shot in the first period, played through it in the second, but did not come out for the third. Capuano didn’t expect de Haan to make the trip with the team, but was proud of the resiliency of his other five defensemen.
“We have five guys back there giving everything they’ve got, playing more minutes than they probably should against a really quick team,” Capuano said. “I can’t give our defense enough credit tonight.”
Nick Leddy played a game-high 29:26, while Boychuk (27:24) and Thomas Hickey (23:17) each played over 20 minutes.
One defenseman who also stood out was Pulock, nearly accomplishing a Gordie Howe hat trick – goal, assist and fight – in the first period in his return to the lineup. Pulock’s eventful period started with his second goal of the season – a deflection – and ended with a spirited fight with Cedric Paquette. It was the kind of gutsy effort that helped energize the Islanders’ bench.
“It was my first career fight, but I was just trying to stick up for my teammate and keep the life going with our club,” Pulock said. “I was happy I was able to help out.”
Alex Killorn’s goal early in the second period tied the game for a stretch, but the Islanders struck for three goals in a 5:15 span, opening up a 4-1 lead. They used their speed, challenging the Lightning to a track meet a week and a half after a 7-4 loss in Florida.
Martin kicked off the three unanswered goals, speeding down the wing past Victor Hedman and Matt Carle before snapping a shot past Ben Bishop at the 11-minute mark. Four minutes later, Nikolay Kulemin shot a pass right up the gut, crossing three lines to Nelson’s tape, before Nelson sent a highlight-reel backhander top shelf on Bishop. Tavares scored his 30th of the season less than a minute later, teeing up a slap shot and sending it through Bishop at 16:15.
The only damper on the period was a late goal by Hedman, but Boychuk put any comeback bid to bed with a goal early in the third period. His ninth of the season – his famed slap shot – ended Bishop's night.
Tavares said the key now is carrying the Islanders effort over to the next game, which is Tuesday night in Washington. Puck drop is at 7 p.m.