This was a game of ebbs and flows. The Lightning, on the strength of their power play, built an early lead. They withstood a second period surge from the Islanders. Then they decisively carried play in the third.
The Bolts grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first period - it was the first time in seven home games that they had scored the game's first goal. But it's not as if they dominated play for the full 20 minutes. Andrei Vasilevskiy made several difficult saves, both when the game was scoreless and after the Lightning had taken the lead.
The Lightning got that opening goal during a power play. While it's been consistently good all season, the power play has been especially lethal against the Islanders. In the first meeting between the clubs on November 1, the Bolts netted two power play goals and posted 20 power play shots during their seven man-advantage opportunities. On this night, the Lightning power play produced two more goals and 11 total shots.
On that first power play chance, Steven Stamkos zipped a shot from the left circle past Jaroslav Halak. Nearly three minutes later, the line of Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Vladdy Namestnikov enjoyed a dominant offensive zone shift and held in a couple of New York clearing attempts. Eventually, Victor Hedman set up Kucherov at the left circle. Kucherov's shot beat Halak to extend the Lightning lead.
After Tyler Johnson one-timed a shot past Halak early in the second period during another Lightning power play, the Bolts had a 3-0 advantage. But then the Islanders pushed back. The Lightning aided the Islanders surge with some ill-timed turnovers. Following Johnson's goal, Thomas Greiss replaced Halak. But Greiss only faced one shot during the rest of the period. On the other hand, the Islanders generated consistent pressure and numerous scoring chances. But only Andrew Ladd's shot off a two-on-one rush beat Vasilevskiy, who made 15 second period saves.
The Lightning regrouped during the second intermission and their execution improved early in the third. Brian Boyle provided a key insurance goal at 1:08 when he snapped a shot from the slot past Greiss. On that play, Cedric Paquette batted Thomas Hickey's clearing attempt out of the air, held the puck in the offensive zone and set up Boyle.
The goal not only re-established a three-goal lead for the Lightning, it also galvanized the team. The Lightning's best period of the game was the third. They enjoyed most of the puck possession and kept the Islanders pinned back in the defensive zone for long stretches. While they didn't score any additional goals, their puck possession advantage effectively prevented the Islanders from mounting a comeback.
It's always important to take care of business at home. The Lightning must deal with a heavy road schedule in the first half of the season, so winning the home games they do have is especially crucial. They've done a nice job so far this year, posting a 5-1-1 mark through seven home games. They'll look to keep it going when they host San Jose on Saturday - after that contest, the Lightning will play eight of their next 10 on the road.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Boyle's third period goal.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1. Steven Stamkos - Lightning. PPG and two assists.
2. Andrei Vasilevskiy - Lightning. 31 saves for win.
3. Brian Boyle - Lightning. Goal.