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Islanders rally late in third, edge Lightning

by John Kreiser

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- On a night when they were dominating everywhere but the scoreboard, the New York Islanders found a way to win.

Tampa Bay Lightning rookie goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped the first 42 shots he faced before John Tavares and Anders Lee scored 12 seconds apart late in the third period to lead the Islanders to a 3-1 victory in front of a sellout crowd at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday.

With time running out, the Islanders trailed 1-0 despite badly outplaying the Lightning. But after New York controlled the puck in the Tampa Bay zone for the better part of a minute, Tavares snapped a high shot from the slot past Vasilevskiy at 16:51 to tie the game.

Before Tavares' 13th goal of the season could be announced on the public address system, the Islanders took the lead when Lee deflected Travis Hamonic's right-point wrist shot into the net at 17:03.

"It was just one of those things where we needed to get one past him, because he was playing so well that if we could get one past him, maybe two, and then go from there," said Lee, who also had the game-winner in New York's 2-1 win at the Detroit Red Wings on Friday.

The maturing Islanders kept their composure and continued to put pucks on the net while Vasilevskiy made save after save.

"I don't think at any point we were frustrated tonight," Lee said. "It was more that we knew we were facing a really good goaltender. He was hot tonight and seeing the puck. We had to do our best to find a way to get one past him."

Nikolay Kulemin, who had been robbed multiple times by Vasilevskiy, scored an empty-net goal with 1:11 remaining, capping the type of game the Islanders of recent seasons often found a way to let slip away,

"We talk about believability and trust every day," coach Jack Capuano said of his team's composure. "We did a lot of good things. They got a good goal, but we were getting our chances. We played the way we're supposed to play, and when you do that, you get rewarded."

Jaroslav Halak made 20 saves for New York (23-10-0), which extended its winning streak to four games and won its 13th home game of the season, matching its total from 2013-14 and delighting the packed house of 16,170.

"To me, it was about the fans again," Capuano said. "The energy in the building was fantastic. In that last 10 minutes, it gave us the push that we needed."

Forward Kyle Okposo also credited the crowd for giving the Islanders the extra push they needed,

"When we got the tying goal, it was so loud. And then when Anders scored, however many seconds later, it got even louder," he said. "It was electric in here tonight. I think all night we had a little pep in our step. We had some jump. We've been feeding off the crowd all year. You look at our home record and we're doing some pretty good things, and the crowd definitely is a factor in it."

The crowd quieted briefly when Brett Connolly gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead 9:16 into the third period. But the Lightning (20-11-4) couldn't hold on and finished 1-3-1 on a five-game, eight-day road trip.

"We had a chance, after all that, to win the game," coach Jon Cooper said. "We had a one-goal lead with five [minutes] to go and we just ran out of gas."

Vasilevskiy, making his second NHL start, finished with 45 saves and nearly stole a victory.

"He kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win," Lightning forward Brian Boyle said.

The Lightning were on their heels for the first few minutes, but appeared to open the scoring 4:20 into the game off a scramble in the crease. However, the goal was disallowed after a video review showed Boyle kicked the puck into the net.

Vasilevskiy was tested several times in the final stages of the period. He stopped Frans Nielsen's shorthanded slap shot on a 2-on-1 break, got his leg out to foil Tavares, who was alone in front after taking a pass by Okposo, and survived a barrage of shots in the final 30 seconds after Lightning forward Brenden Morrow was called for interference with 57.4 seconds left.

The ice tilted the Islanders' way in the second period, and only Vasilevskiy's goaltending enabled the Lightning to survive New York's 17-4 advantage in shots on goal and head to the dressing room still even. Vasilevskiy robbed Nielsen alone in the slot seven minutes into the period, denied Okposo from in front of the crease about six minutes later and foiled Kulemin's backhander on a solo break-in with five minutes remaining.

Through two periods, the Islanders had a 29-9 edge in shots on goal and a 47-25 advantage in shot attempts. They had won 21 of 31 faceoffs and outhit Tampa Bay 23-20, but were unable to get a puck past the 20-year-old goaltender.

"I don't know who got the [three] stars, but he should have gotten all of them," Cooper said. "He was outstanding. We've played 33-34 games, and we haven't had one like that all year. In the end, our goalie gives us a game and we had a chance to get some points, and we didn't."

The Lightning played the third period with five defenseman; Jason Garrison didn't return from the dressing room after the second because of an undisclosed injury.

"There's concern, but I don't know for sure," Cooper said. "You lose arguably one of your best defenders in a game that we were defending a lot, that didn't help. We'll see. I don't know exactly what the extent of his injury is."


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