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Lightning defensive lapses costly in Game 1

Prince, Islanders take advantage of breakdowns to grab series lead

by Corey Long / Correspondent

TAMPA -- Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop couldn't bail out the defense in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Second Round series against the New York Islanders.

The Islanders took advantage of defensive breakdowns by the Lightning in the first two periods to take a three-goal lead on their way to a 5-3 win. Game 2 of the best-of-7 series is at Amalie Arena on Saturday (3 p.m. TV: NBC, SN, TVA Sports).

Tampa Bay has been without defenseman Anton Stralman since March 25, but the unit held up well for most of the Eastern Conference First Round series against the Detroit Red Wings. Cracks began to form in Game 5 of that series, but Bishop arguably played his best game of the season in a 34-save shutout.

On Wednesday, the Islanders put pressure on the Lightning defense early and were rewarded with two goals by Shane Prince in a 2:28 span late in the first period to take a 3-1 lead.

"I think we turned the puck over a lot," Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman said. "I think we gave them opportunities to get the puck deep and create plays. We were a little too careless in the neutral zone, and they took advantage."

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Hedman and Matt Carle have been a solid pair in the postseason, but they appeared to be a step slow and out of sync in Game 1 against New York, possibly the result of having six days off between games. On Prince's first goal, the Lightning were caught in transition, and Hedman was out of the play. Carle failed to control the puck along the boards, losing it to Islanders forward Brock Nelson, who started the goal-scoring sequence.

On Prince's second goal, Tampa Bay defenseman Jason Garrison couldn't catch Ryan Strome along the boards, allowing him space to find Prince, who was open in front of the net.

"We started getting a little too cute I think," Lightning center Brian Boyle said. "And when we did, we didn't compete to get the puck back necessarily as hard as we are accustomed to. Those are big no-nos this time of year."

Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said it was as simple as a couple of mistakes that should have been avoided. The Lightning had 17 giveaways in Game 5 against Detroit and another 13 on Wednesday.

"We got to do a little better job [back there]," Cooper said. "One [goal] is a backdoor tap-in that found its way through, and the last one, just our whole coverage there wasn't good."

Cooper made some in-game adjustments and paired Hedman with Braydon Coburn after the first period, but as the series moves on, all eyes will be on Stralman and whether he can return to the lineup.

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