Playing the second half of a back-to-back against a rested (and talented) opponent, the Lightning knew they’d have to limit their number of costly mistakes. For a portion of this game, the Lightning did play solidly – and were able to apply pressure on the Islanders. But they weren’t able to do it for a full 60 minutes. And when the Lightning committed mistakes, the Islanders were able to make them pay.
Aside from taking three penalties, the Lightning’s first period was good. They grabbed the lead when Alex Killorn finished his own rebound following an initial shot from Jason Garrison. In terms of five-on-five play, the Bolts did well to contain the Islanders’ team speed through the neutral zone. They also didn’t spend an undue amount of time in their own zone. But the Islanders did enjoy those three power plays, which included over a minute of five-on-three power play time. That was when Evgeni Nabokov was at his best in the frame – he stopped 12 first period shots in all, helping the Lightning take the lead into the dressing room.
The Bolts carried a power play of their own into the second period, but came out flat. A turnover at their own blue line led to Cal Clutterbuck’s shorthanded goal in the opening minute. Later in the period, the Islanders scored two goals within 63 seconds to grab a 3-1 lead. In both instances, the Lightning lost defensive zone puck battles, surrendering chances to clear the zone.
Trailing 3-1, the Lightning did push back in the closing minutes of the second and they spent most of that time in the offensive zone. The Bolts got some good looks, including a two-on-one in which the puck skipped past Valtteri Filppula’s stick instead of becoming a tap-in goal. But they couldn’t reduce the deficit and ended up taking a penalty in the final seconds of the period. The Islanders converted on that power play chance early in the third. On the next shift, Ondrej Palat slid in a rebound from a Matt Carle shot, pulling the Lightning to within 4-2. But still down by a couple of goals, the Lightning needed to press the attack – and the Islanders were able to generate counter opportunities. One of those led to Casey Cizikas’ breakaway goal, which set the final at 5-2.
There were components that conspired against the Lightning. They didn’t have very good puck-luck in the game – the Filppula miss on the two-on-one was one of several examples – while the Isles scored two of their goals on shots that deflected off Lightning sticks. They lost Cedric Paquette to a first period injury after he blocked a shot, so they played most of the game with only 11 forwards. It was the second of a back-to-back against a rested opponent. But the bottom line is that, regardless of those circumstances, the Lightning simply didn’t play well enough to win. There were too many costly mistakes. And too many penalties (six, leading to New York power plays). That’s not a formula that will usually result in success, whether you’re playing a back-to-back – or not.
The Lightning will have a chance to finish with a winning trip if they can secure a victory Thursday in Toronto against what is likely to be a hungry Leafs team, which is in the midst of a losing streak and coming off a blowout loss at home to Nashville.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Clutterbuck’s SHG early in the second, tying the game at 1.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1. Lubomir Visnovsky – Islanders. PPG.
2. Casey Cizikas – Islanders. Goal.
3. Andrej Sustr – Lightning. Strong overall game for the Lightning.