During the Lightning Radio pregame interview, Associate Coach Rick Bowness stated that the biggest key for the Bolts in this game against the Islanders was going to be puck management. The Islanders are a quick, structured team, one that eagerly pounces on loose pucks and counters with speed. It would be a priority for the Lightning, he said, to move pucks cleanly up ice and deep into the offensive zone.
In the first period, for the most part, the Lightning’s puck management was pretty good. As a result, the opening 20 minutes was fairly evenly-played. The Islanders only had one or two scoring chances on Andrei Vasilevskiy.
That changed in the second period. The Lightning began to struggle with their puck management. Credit the Islanders for forcing some of those plays, but many of the Tampa Bay turnovers were unforced. Passes ended up on teammates’ skates, not sticks. There were failed chances to clear the defensive zone. And when the Lightning did maneuver the puck into the offensive zone, the Islanders quickly countered. As the period progressed, the Islanders’ attack became more and more dangerous – and they accumulated a number of scoring chances.
But Vasilveskiy put on a goaltending clinic. He stopped point blank chances, in-alone looks and odd-man rushes. He saved shots through screens and tough angle shots aimed at his feet. In all, the 20-year old rookie stopped 19 second period shots, keeping the game scoreless.
Nearly halfway into the third, the Lightning broke the tie when Tyler Johnson put the puck in front and Brett Connolly deflected it over Jaroslav Halak’s glove. But after grabbing the lead, the Lightning spent much of the rest of the period defending – and repeatedly turning pucks over. But Vasilevskiy continued to shine. His best stop in the frame came on a two-on-one rush in which he stopped a point-blank look for Nikolay Kulemin, keeping the Lightning up by one.
But eventually, the Isles converted. Following a long shift in the offensive zone (in which the Lightning couldn’t execute a clear when they had a chance), John Tavares finished a shot from the slot. The game was tied with 3:09 left. The Lightning still had an opportunity to force overtime, but on the ensuing faceoff, the Bolts made another costly mistake. After Valtteri Filppula won the draw, Matt Carle flubbed a pass out of the d-zone. The Islanders stole it and Anders Lee deflected in Travis Hamonic’s point shot. The two goals came 12 seconds apart. Kulemin finished the scoring with an empty-netter.
Vasilevskiy nearly stole this game for the Lightning. But ultimately, the better team in this game prevailed. The Isles fired 48 shots on goal (47 on Vasilevskiy) and dominated play for much of the night.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:
The GWG from Anders Lee, which came with 2:57 left in the third.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
1.Andrei Vasilevskiy – Lightning. Phenomenal performance, stopping 45 of 47 shots.
2.Kyle Okposo – Islanders. Team-leading eight shots. Assist.
3.Anders Lee – Islanders. GWG.