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Lightning rally to beat Islanders 4-3

by Lonnie Herman
TAMPA -- Steven Stamkos continues to shine for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The NHL goal-scoring leader scored his 51st and 52nd of the season, then set up Tim Wallace's game-winner 7:50 remaining in regulation as the Lightning wrapped up their seven-game homestand by beating the New York Islanders 4-3 on Saturday night.

Stamkos surpassed his prior career high of 51 and tied Vincent Lecavalier's franchise record for goals in a season, set in 2006-07, by scoring at 15:49 of the first period and 1:46 of the second to give the Lightning a 2-0 lead.

"I thought he was terrific tonight," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said.

Boucher especially liked Stamkos' first goal, scored from just in front of Islanders goalie Al Montoya.

"That first goal – the whole line; Marty (St. Louis) inside the dots, (Teddy) Purcell inside the dots, Stamkos right there beside the goaltender, that's what I was looking for in the first period," Boucher said.

"Putting pucks on the net and fighting there, that's a play. That's the most important play in hockey. It was only fitting that those guys showed the way."

The goals meant a lot to Stamkos, but it was clear he was disappointed that they did not come in a more meaningful game -- neither the Lightning nor the Islanders will make the playoffs.

"It's special to do that at home but it would have been a lot more special if we were in the playoff mix right now," Stamkos said.

The Islanders not only worked their way back from a two-goal deficit, they grabbed the lead after Matt Moulson scored his team-high 33th goal 43 seconds into the final period, the third unanswered goal for New York. Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo in the second period after Stamkos' pair had given the Lightning a 2-0 lead.

But despite outshooting the Lightning 37-26 and outplaying them for long stretches, the Islanders allowed Tampa Bay to rally for the win.

"We had the big goal at the end of the second and a big goal to start the third," Isles center John Tavares said. "You can't ask for much more. Usually that's able to carry a lot of momentum and we didn't sustain it for the third period."

Tom Pyatt tied the score at 3-3 when he scored his career-high 11th goal of the season, and his third in two games, by charging to net to tip Ryan Malone's centering pass behind Montoya.

"Anytime  you score some goals it's unbelievable for your confidence," Pyatt said.  "Scoring a goal in the NHL is just such a great feeling. To get my 11th feels pretty good and I just want to keep it going."

Just over three minutes later, Wallace -- acquired on waivers from the Islanders last month -- converted Stamkos' pass for his third goal of the season, and first game-winning goal, to put the Lightning ahead for good.

Dwayne Roloson, in his 600th NHL career game, stopped 37 shots and put together his second consecutive strong effort in net for Tampa Bay while getting his 10th win of the season.

Boucher said he wants to focus on putting on a good show for the fans in the Lightning's two remaining home games this season.

"We want to give a show to our fans," Boucher said. "We want to fight out there and make it worthwhile for them to come see us play. The next two games are sold out. It's an indication that our fans enjoyed the fight this year and still enjoy it and will back this team up. That play in the third period, that's a ‘thank you' that our players are trying to give our fans."

With the loss, the teams the two teams split their four-game season series. The Islanders (30-33-11) fell to 2-1-0 on a five-game road trip that continues at Florida on Sunday.

The loss dropped kept them tied with the Montreal Canadiens, who also lost Saturday night, for the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

But at least they don't have to face Stamkos again until next season.

"Our defensive coverage on Stamkos' second goal wasn't bad," Islander defenseman Steve Staios said. "We were right there, but the kid can release it like nobody else in the League."
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