In Friday’s 4-2 loss in Washington, the Lightning’s penalty kill hurt them, allowing three goals on four opportunities. In this defeat to the New York Islanders, both the Lightning’s power play and penalty kill cost them. The Bolts went 0-4 on the man advantage and allowed two goals while shorthanded. Because of the New York advantage on special teams and because of the play of Isles goalie Thomas Greiss, the Islanders were able to pick up two points in a game in which they were otherwise badly outplayed.
The Lightning did many things well in this game. They were physical. They forechecked ferociously and effectively. They dominated puck possession. They had a large advantage in faceoff wins. They outshot Islanders, 31-22, and had a 59-36 advantage in shot attempts. But when the Lightning needed a key play, especially after the Islanders had rallied from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game in the second period, they couldn’t get one. The Isles, on the other hand, scored three very timely goals at crucial times.
The Bolts scored the game’s first goal when Alex Killorn put in a rebound from the front of the net. It was one of nine first period shots for the Lightning – and if there was one area the Lightning could improve upon after the first, it was that they didn’t put enough pucks on net. That changed in the second, a period in which the Lightning fired 17 shots on Greiss. But after Anton Stralman scored to extend the lead early in the second, Greiss shut the door. He made a number of saves on glorious Lightning scoring chances, including a stop on a Steven Stamkos penalty shot, and moments later, a save on a Valtteri Filppula breakaway.
There were several critical moments in this game. One of those occurred shortly after Stralman’s goal. The Lightning were buzzing and had a few chances go up by three. But just over a minute after Stralman’s tally, a penalty was called on Vladdy Namestnikov. The Islanders were able to convert, cutting the Lightning lead to 2-1. That goal from Josh Bailey completely changed the complexion of the game. Greiss kept his team’s deficit at one with those aforementioned saves on Stamkos and Filppula. Then, late in the period, a puck bounced off Braydon Coburn’s stick in front of the net and Cal Clutterbuck poked it past Bishop. That goal prevented the Lightning from taking a lead into the second intermission.
After Clutterbuck’s goal, the Lightning had three consecutive power play chances. A goal on any of those three would have reestablished the lead for the Bolts. But they couldn’t score. They had a couple of good looks early on the first of those (which came late in the second period), but the rest of the power play time was quiet.
Then, of course, the final key moment happened in the closing minutes. The Isles received a power play chance with 4:29 left. John Tavares jumped on a rebound in front and slid it in with 3:36 remaining. That was the game-winner.
Obviously, special teams were a big factor in why the Lightning lost a game they otherwise dominated. But they’ve had too many games like this already this year. Perhaps not the same exact script, but generally, games in which the Lightning played well enough to gain at least a point, but didn’t. So now, 25 games into the season, the Lightning are back at .500. They begin December with a daunting three-game road trip out to California. Their special teams will need to be better if they hope to come home with more than three points on the trip.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Greiss saves on the Stamkos penalty shot and Filppula breakaway in the second.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Thomas Greiss – Islanders. 29 saves.
2.John Tavares – Islanders. GWG.
3.Steven Stamkos – Lightning. Two assists.