The Tampa Bay Lightning played a structured game against a structured opponent, the New York Islanders, winners of seven in a row entering Friday night's tilt.
Tampa Bay matched the Islanders compete level. The Lightning went step-for-step with the Isles throughout the contest.
But an unlucky two-minute stretch in the third period put the game out of reach for the Lightning, and the Islanders extended their NHL-best win streak to eight games following a 5-2 victory over the Bolts at Nassau Veterans Memorial Colisuem.
Leading 2-1, the Islanders dumped a puck into the zone, the puck taking an unfortunate carom off of Ryan McDonagh right to Anders Lee, who started a tic-tac-toe passing sequence on the quick turnaround finished off by Josh Bailey to put New York in front 3-1.
Overcoming a two-goal deficit late against a stalwart defensive team like the Islanders is already a monumental task.
It became impossible once the Islanders scored a fourth goal 1:46 later, Lee backhanding a rebound at a sharp angle and banking it off Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.
"It was one of those games where pucks went in for them and didn't go in for us," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said.
The Lightning will have a week to regroup and practice before playing a back-to-back set against the Buffalo Sabres next Friday and Saturday as part of the NHL Global Series in Stockholm, Sweden.
Here's where Friday's game on Long Island got away from the Bolts.
Video: Joseph on the loss to the Islanders
1. MOMENTUM-KILLING POWER PLAY
The Lightning's penalty kill woes have been well-documented this season.
But the power play hasn't exactly been setting the ice on fire either, and certainly not at the 28.2 percent pace we saw last season.
Tampa Bay went 0-for-3 on the power play against the Islanders in a game where they definitely could have used a boost with the man-advantage considering quality scoring chances were so hard to come by in five-on-five play.
In particular, a Lightning power play trailing 2-1 at 7:21 of the third period was a perfect opportunity for the Tampa Bay to get back into the contest. The Bolts were able to get two shots on goal - both were stopped by Isles goalie Thomas Greiss - and had two more blocked but never seriously threatened the New York net.
Three minutes after that power play expired, Andres Lee scored a third goal for the Islanders to effectively put the game out of reach.
"That's tough," Alex Killorn said. "That's a huge moment in the game for us to get some momentum going the other way. Just the way things are kind of going for us right now. But, yeah, we've got to get better on the power play. I think we've got to get some more opportunities just to gain momentum even when it's over."
Tampa Bay's power play hasn't looked particularly sharp through the first 13 games of the season. The puck is stagnant at times. There's not enough movement. There are moments where the power play feels stale. The same setups the Lightning used to score so many power-play goals last season aren't working this year because teams have adjusted accordingly.
Just feels like the power play is still struggling to find its identity, much like the team as a whole.
Video: Jon Cooper on the loss the Islanders
2. LOTS OF SHOTS, LITTLE REWARD
Tampa Bay fired off 35 shots at the Islanders net while New York put up just 26.
Those totals are a welcome departure from the last handful of games where the Lightning had given up 40 or more shots in three-straight contests, only the second time in franchise history they've allowed that many 40-shot games in consecutively
The problem is, Tampa Bay's shots mainly came from the perimeter, and there weren't enough from the slot or in close to really test Isles goalie Thomas Greiss, who was able to get a clear sight line to see nearly all of them.
"I think we had a mentality of shooting the puck," Lightning forward Mathieu Joseph said. "That creates a lot of confusion. We were able to recover some of those pucks and create some offense. I think their goalie played well."
The Lightning had plenty of offensive zone time against the Islanders. Their chances weren't one-and-done as they've been at other times this season when the Lightning have struggled to score. The Bolts were even able to bury the puck into the zone for over a minute at a time on occasion, allowing them to get a line change while a fatigued New York group continued to chase them over the ice.
Unfortunately, too many of those situations ended with the Lightning just getting a couple shots from their defensemen from distance with no action in front to try to provide a screen or look for a rebound.
Only until Ryan McDonagh took a shot from inside the blue line with Ondrej Palat parked in front were the Lightning able to disrupt Greiss' vision and slip one past the Isles goalie.
That goal, which came with 1:57 remaining and the Lightning net empty down 4-1, was too little, too late.
"I think that's what they're really know for is the way they play defense," Killorn said. "Whenever we got it in there, they played pretty good man on man and kind of compact everyone in so shots don't really get through. They did a good job. He's always done a good job over there that coach stressing defense and they've been really good all year. I think we still had some chances though. It's not like they completely shut us down, they just didn't go in."
Video: Killorn on bad bounces in loss to NYI
3. SHOOTING WOES
One telling stat to explain the Lightning's slide of late, the Bolts having now lost three of their last four:
Through its first seven games of the season, Tampa Bay's shooting percentage was 13.7 percent, good for second place in the NHL behind only Edmonton.
Over the last six contests, the Lightning are shooting only eight percent, ranking 25th in the League over that stretch.
As alluded to above, Tampa Bay's shots have been coming from the perimeter in a lot of its games of late, particularly Friday against the Islanders.
But the Lightning haven't been doing themselves any favors either with some of their shots when they do get good scoring opportunities, either putting pucks in the middle of the net and not testing the opposing goalie or missing the net altogether.
"We lost the game, but we had the puck for a lot of the night," Cooper said. "For whatever reason, the guys are trying, but give the Islanders credit, they're a really good defensive team. They kept us to the outside. Their goalie got to see a lot of shots and the chances we did have, we didn't bury them. And they buried theirs."
Last season, the Lightning were burying those opportunities and were the top-shooting team in the NHL at 12.2 percent. That was also Tampa Bay's best shooting percentage for a season in franchise history.
So we know this team can shoot straight.
They just need to recalibrate their sites to start putting some of these shots in the back of the net.