After losing three consecutive games, the last of those being an embarrassing lopsided defeat, the Lightning responded with one of their best games of the season.
What jumps out about this contest was how the Lightning lit up the scoresheet. They netted six goals, including two on the power play. They also matched a season-high with 36 shots. But the reason for their offensive production was that they cleaned up the two areas of their game that hurt them in their previous game: their compete-level and team defense.
For most of the night, the Lightning didn't allow the Islanders any room to move up ice. They repeatedly forced New York turnovers - and were therefore able to go on the attack. Also, the Lightning's high compete-level helped them win puck battles all over the ice. In the offensive zone specifically, the Lightning did an excellent job of retrieving pucks after an attempted shot. Those retrievals meant that the Bolts were able to enjoy long, sustained, high-pressure shifts in the Islanders end.
If the Lightning can possess the puck most of the night and relentlessly win battles, they're going to have a chance to use their skill to make plays. And make plays they did in this game. All three of their first period goals were beautifully-executed plays. The first was a Nikita Kucherov one-timer following a cross-ice pass from Steven Stamkos. The second was a Kucherov snipe from the left circle. And the third was a perfect pass from Slater Koekkoek to Stamkos at the front of the net. The first two were power play goals - and the Lightning actually put another puck in the net during a first period man advantage. Stamkos' tally from the slot was wiped out, however, because of a successful off-side challenge.
Shots in the first period were 14-4 in favor of the Bolts. The Islanders did have more puck possession as the game progressed, but the Lightning continued to build their lead. In the second period, Brian Boyle put in a backhander after a nice passing sequence off the rush. Then, J.T. Brown finished a shorthanded breakaway. Finally, Valtteri Filppula earned credit for a goal that bounced into the New York net off a Islanders defender.
Up 6-1 entering the third, the Lightning handled the final 20 minutes well. They did yield a few scoring chances, but, for the most part, they did a solid job of getting pucks out of their own end and deep into the Islanders zone.
I referenced the sound defensive structure, high compete-level and skilled plays. The Lightning also displayed a shooting mentality throughout the night, especially on the power play. They finished 2-7 on the PP and posted 20 shots on goal during those man advantages. Very impressive.
Thanks to this strong response that ended the losing streak, the Lightning were able to finish the road trip with a 3-3 record. Now heading home, let's see if they can build upon this performance on Thursday against the Boston Bruins
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Brian Engblom):
Kucherov's first goal, opening the scoring.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Brian Engblom):
- Nikita Kucherov - Lightning. Two PPG and two assists. Matched career-high with four points.
- Steven Stamkos - Lightning. Goal and assist.
- J.T. Brown - Lightning. SHG.