New York's offense, even though it produced five goals, wasn't the biggest reason why the Isles won this game. It was their team defense. The Islanders' tight structure and solid d-zone coverage was key in limiting the number of Lightning Grade-A looks. It was particularly important on this night because the Lightning did a lot of good work to earn a majority of the possession time. But they had difficulty translating it into scoring chances and goals.
In fact, the Lightning also defended well in this game. They similarly kept New York's dangerous chances to a minimum. The first two periods were evenly-played. But the Bolts found themselves in catch-up mode after 40 minutes. That's because the Islanders made two plays in the second period leading to goals while the Lightning only made one. Mathew Barzal's dynamic individual effort in the offensive zone resulted in the opening goal. Then, after Yanni Gourde tied the score with a perfectly-placed backhander from the right circle, the Islanders regained the lead. The Lightning got caught with tired players on the ice and Ryan Pulock blasted a point shot into the net.
The Pulock goal allowed the Islanders to play with the lead heading into the third period and they effectively locked it down in front of goalie Thomas Greiss. During much of the final frame, the Lightning outworked the Islanders to win loose pucks. They spent a lot of time in the offensive zone. But the Islanders gave them little space to make plays. And they boxed out well in front of Greiss, who was able to clearly see most of the shots that came his way. When there were rebounds, the Islanders prevented Lightning players from getting sticks on them.
Late in the third, the Islanders broke the game open by taking advantage of a couple of bounces. A dump-in hit Ryan McDonagh and ricocheted directly to Anders Lee, creating a three-on-two chance. Later, Lee banked in a rebound off Andrei Vasilevskiy.
While the loss is disappointing, there were positives for the Lightning. As mentioned earlier, they did defend well for much of the night. Their penalty kill looked sharp in going 3-3. The power play was crisp, producing eight shots and plenty of zone time. Their compete-level was extremely high - it allowed them to win lots of puck battles and enjoy a possession advantage.
Next, the Lightning will head to Sweden in advance of the Global Series games against Buffalo next weekend. Hopefully, by the time the puck is dropped next Friday, the Lightning will be fully healthy.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
1. Mathew Barzal - Islanders. Goal and assist.
2. Anders Lee - Islanders. Goal and two assists.
3. Thomas Greiss - Islanders. 33 saves.