The Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders have both had inconsistent starts to their seasons. Tampa may have won more than they’ve lost but the expectations are high, and the effort has been suspect from game to game, something coach Jon Cooper was hoping to fix in Brooklyn. The Islanders have caught the injury bug early this season, and were looking to get closer to .500 as they hope to tread water until they can get healthy later this season. The fact that recent history between these two teams has led to a budding nasty rivalry felt by both clubs, gave even more motivation for both teams to get an early season win against a conference rival.
The Lightning would get a an early dose of the Islanders attempting to set the tone in the 1st period as they laid several big hits on the Bolts to open the game. Tampa would get an early opportunity to get the game’s first goal, after a Islanders ‘too many men on the ice’ penalty, bu t New York goalie Jaroslav Halak would make some nice saves to keep the game scoreless and kill the power play midway in the 1st period. The Islanders would get a chance with the man advantage later in the period when Tampa forward Vladislav Namestnikov would get sent off for interference. Bolts goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy would do just enough to keep the Islanders power play from scoring as Tampa would kill off the Namestnikov penalty to keep the game tied 0-0 late in the 1st period. The game seemed destined to go to the break tied at zero until Tampa’s Cedric Paquette would find a streaking JT Brown who caught the Islanders defenseman napping as he would snap a shot past Halak to give the Lightning the first lead of the game at 1-0 late 1st period. A mere 42 seconds later Lightning forward Ryan Callahan would redirect a Andrej Sustr slap shot past Halak to suddenly give the Lightning a two goal lead in the waning minute of the 1st period. Nikita Kucherov nearly made it 3 goals at the buzzer as he would rocket a shot off the crossbar just before time expired. The Lightning would end the 1st period with an impressive offensive flurry giving them a 2-0 lead after one period of play.
The second period would start with Cedric Paquette taking a nasty high stick from Islanders winger Jason Chimera who appeared to lose track of where he was on the ice. Paquette would head straight to the locker room to stop the bleeding, and the Lightning would get a 4 minute power play to start the 2nd period. The Lightning power play would continue its struggles however, never testing Halak during the entire four minutes with the man advantage. The Islanders would go back on the penalty kill shortly thereafter as Scott Mayfield would take issue with JT Brown laying a clean on Islanders star Jonathan Tavares who forgot to look up while he had the puck. Despite having a significant size and weight advantage Brown would hold his own against Mayfield, and earn his team another power play as Mayfield would receive an instigator penalty for starting the fight. Unfortunately, the Lightning power play would stay ineffective and the Islanders would keep the game at a two goal deficit midway through the 2nd period. The Islanders appeared determined to never leave the penalty box, as New York Center Ryan Strome would hit Tampa defenseman Victor Hedman with a high-stick, setting up the Lightning’s 5th power play opportunity on the night. The Lightning would continue their impotent power play despite getting some good looks from both Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson coming away empty-handed again with the man advantage. Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos would break out late in the 2nd period with a beautiful rush resulting in a Kucherov goal to extend the Lightning lead to 3-0. Something would appear to get into the Lightning attack late in the period again, as a streaking Steven Stamkos would find Vladislav Namestnikov in front of the Islanders crease for sizzling redirect goal giving the Bolts a commanding 4-0 lead late in the 2nd period. The 2nd period would end with the Lightning extending their lead to 4-0 headed into the 2nd intermission, while also maintaining the shots on goal lead 27-14.
Both teams appeared ready to just finish this game as quick as they could as the 3rd period got underway. Vasilevskiy would see and make some of his most difficult saves of the game early in the 3rd period. However, the level of difficulty had a lot to do with him having seen so few shots in the early periods by comparison. The Islanders would finally put together a sustained attack that would draw a hooking penalty from Lightning center Cedric Paquette giving the Islanders another power play midway through the 3rd period trailing by four goals. Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn would add to the man advantage for the Islanders by taking a delay of game penalty midway through the Paquette penalty. Vasilevskiy would stand tall however, turning aside several shots despite the Islanders having two additional players on the ice they could not score. The killing of the 5 on 3 power play by the Lightning effectively killed any remaining hopes of the Islanders pulling off a miracle 3rd period comeback. Vasilevskiy would make sure no late heroics from the Islanders would mess up his shutout by making some excellent saves down the stretch. The Bolts would finally play a complete game coach Cooper had asked for and the Lightning would start their road trip with an impressive and dominating 4-0 win.
The Lightning would improve to 9-6-1, and 17 points. The Islanders would fall to 5-8-3, for 13 points on the year.
The Lightning will continue their road trip tomorrow night when they head to Detroit to take on the Detroit Red Wings beginning at 7:30 pm.
MY THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1st Star: Steven Stamkos – The captain’s passing prowess was on display as he would be instrumental in breaking the game wide open on back to back beautiful assists to put the game out of reach
2nd Star: Andrei Vasilevksiy – The young goalie did not get tested all that much in the first two periods, but he made the stops he needed to make in the 3rd as the Islanders tried to spoil his shutout. If Vasilevskiy can give this constant effort in net, it will make the Lightning’s ability to part ways with Ben Bishop a much easier pill to swallow.
3rd Star: JT Brown – The spark plug of the grinder lines got the Bolts offense going with a tremendous hustle play that led to the first goal of the game. He would later lay a perfect hit on Tavares, and hold his own in a fight against a much bigger opponent looking to take his head off. He was one assist away from the Gordie Howe hat trick(Goal, Assist, and a Fight).
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