For the second time in eight days, the New York Islanders scored a big road win over a conference leader, beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-3 on Saturday night at AMALIE Arena.
The Islanders (11-6-2) built a 4-0 lead against the NHL's top team, who entered the game 15-2-2, but had to batten down the hatches during a furious third period push by the Lightning. The push came about as fast as a usual lightning storm in South Florida, but the Islanders held on for their first win against the Bolts since April 4, 2016 and extended their winning streak to three games.
"We know in here we have a really good hockey club and can beat any team on any given night," said Andrew Ladd, who opened the scoring 51 seconds into the game. "The confidence is there that we can play with anybody and beat anybody on any given night."
Video: NYI@TBL: Ladd rifles home one-timer for early goal
The Islanders showed no fear in going toe-to-toe with Lightning, heeding Doug Weight's morning message that no team is unbeatable. They got points from their top players, as John Tavares (1G, 2A) and Josh Bailey (3A) each had three points, while Anders Lee scored a pair of goals, including the eventual winner off a Bailey feed, but Weight said he liked the effort up and down the lineup on Saturday.
"It was a really good effort from 20 guys tonight," Weight said. "All the lines were great. We brought energy and it was a really good effort from the whole team tonight."
Video: NYI@TBL: Lee fires a wrist shot through the five-hole
Brock Nelson made it 3-0 in the second period, walking off the goal line and picking the far corner on Vasilevskiy at 7:09 and Lee's second of the night - a power-play goal - came 1:05 into the third to make it 4-0. The Islanders snapped several Lightning streaks on Saturday, including Tampa's seven-game stretch without allowing a power-play goal.
Video: NYI@TBL: Nelson cuts inside and beats Vasilevskiy
But just when it looked like the Islanders were going to cruise to the win, the Lightning struck twice in 13 seconds to keep the pressure on the Isles. Yanni Gourde scored the first of his two in the period, followed by an Ondrej Palat snipe on a two-on-one shortly after.
Weight was mulling a time out and pulled the trigger at the suggestion of Assistant Coach Kelly Buchberger - to calm his team down.
"We just needed to calm down a bit and realize we were still in a good position, still have the lead on the road against a top team," Bailey said. "We just needed to calm down and get the job done."
Video: NYI@TBL: Lee nets second goal off Bailey's great pass
Initially the Lightning continued to press, but after weathering the storm, the Isles went back to playing on their toes. If not for a spectacular set of saves on Ladd and Josh Ho-Sang, the Islanders would have restored their three-goal lead midway through the third. Instead, Gourde's second of the period put a scare into the Islanders with 3:36 remaining, but Tavares' empty-netter iced it with 22 seconds to play.
"We'll definitely take this one, it was a hard-fought game, obviously they pushed late, but we found a way to get it done," Bailey said.
Thomas Greiss made 36 saves for his third straight win, while Vasilevskiy stopped 27-of-31 in the loss.
CLUTTERBUCK MISSES GAME:
Cal Clutterbuck missed Saturday's game with an illness. Alan Quine drew into the lineup in his place and Doug Weight shuffled his lines as a result.
The Islanders are completing a back-to-back set on Sunday evening, as they take on the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh at 5 p.m. This is the second meeting in four days between the clubs, as the Isles beat the Canes 6-4 on Thursday in Brooklyn.