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Lightning Drop 7 On Islanders, Lose Stralman In Victory

One of hockey’s oldest adages is that the most important shift of a game is the one that happens immediately after a goal is scored.  The Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders proved that adage true multiple times on Friday night at Amalie Arena.

Tampa Bay got goals from seven different players and tied a team record by scoring a pair of goals nine seconds apart in a 7-4 win over the Islanders that put them back into a first-place tie with the Florida Panthers on top of the Atlantic Division with 91 points.  Due to the Lightning having a higher number of regulation and overtime wins than Florida, they hold the tiebreaker.  The seven goals was a season-high for the Lightning, who outshot New York 42-31, and it was the second straight game in which they have scored six or more goals.

It was a frenetic, intense game that saw each team score goals in quick succession.  Not only did the Bolts have two goals nine seconds apart, but they also had another pair of goals just 23 seconds apart.  The Islanders also followed up two other Tampa Bay goals with goals of their own on the following shifts.  It was the type of game that leaves the fans breathless and the head coaches with a few extra gray hairs at the ned of the night.  Jason Garrison had a goal and two assists, Ondrej Palat had three assists, Andrej Sustr had a goal and an assist, Jonathan Marchessault had a pair of assists, while Nikita Kucherov rounded out the list of Bolts players who picked up multiple points, adding a goal and an assist.  Tyler Johnson got the game-winning goal halfway through the third period.

Unfortunately for the Lightning, the win was tempered by the fact that the team announced that defenseman Anton Stralman would be out indefinitely after suffering a non-displaced fracture of his left fibula during the first period after getting tangled up with Islanders forward Anders Lee.  It’s a crucial injury to one of the Lightning’s best defensemen and most important players, and there’s no doubt that his absence will be missed.

The game began when the referees were willing to call anything and everything, as Garrison was whistled for holding just 44 seconds into the game, giving the Islanders an early power play in which Lee jammed the puck under Lightning goalie Ben Bishop and into the net, but the goal was waived off due to an early whistle.  New York was unable to take advantage of the power play, but took the first five shots of the game, as the opening half of the period saw them repeatedly force the issue in the neutral zone and create chances in transition.  The Lightning would take the next five shots of the game thanks to a power play chance after the Isles were called for too many men on the ice.  Ondrej Palat had a couple of solid chances, but the Bolts didn’t spend a lot of time in the Isles’ zone during the man-advantage and New York was able to kill it off.  At the 6:50 mark, the Lightning found themselves down a man again when Vlad Namestnikov went to the box for tripping.  It was during this power play when Stralman was injured, as he got tangled up with Lee while the two were battling for position in front of Bishop.  Stralman landed on his left leg awkwardly, unable to put much weight on it as he was helped off the ice.  New York didn’t convert on the power play, but moments after it ended, Brock Nelson scored on a one-timer from the left circle after the power play expired, putting the Islanders up 1-0 on his 25th of the year.  Ryan Strome and Josh Bailey picked up the assists.

Bishop made a crucial save on a 2-on-1 a couple of minutes later, and the Lightning continued to have trouble with zone entries and getting clogged up in the neutral zone, leading to the Islanders getting some quality chances.  However, things all changed in the span of nine frenetic seconds.  With 6:18 left in the period, Alex Killorn sent a pass from the point towards the slot, where Kucherov put himself in a great position to tip the puck into the net with a tremendous deflection, tying the game 1-1 with his 29th goal of the season.  Killorn and Sustr got the assists, and then right off the ensuing faceoff, Garrison chipped the puck deep into New York’s zone, where JT Brown chased it down with a tenacious forecheck.  The puck bounced back into the slot, where Namestnikov ripped a one-timer past Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss, sending Amalie Arena into pandemonium and giving the Bolts a 2-1 lead with his 14th goal.  The two goals tied the team record for fastest two goals, originally set by Dave Andreychuk and Fredrik Modin on January 9, 2004 at New Jersey and tied by Victor Hedman and Kucherov on January 14, 2014 at the Rangers.  The Lightning went into the intermission with a 14-12 edge in shots on goal.

Although the Islanders spent much of the first couple of minutes in the Lightning’s zone, Tampa Bay began to tilt the ice in their favor, as the line of Johnson, Palat, and Marchessault had a phenomenal shift that generated a few quality chances and kept the puck in New York’s zone for an extended length of time.  The Bolts’ increased presence in the offensive zone paid off in the form of a 3-1 lead, as Garrison took a shot from the boards near the right point that was kicked away by Greiss.  Steven Stamkos was lurking on the far side of the goal and pounced on the rebound, hammering it into a wide-open net for his 35th goal of the season at the 5:02 mark.  Garrison and Kucherov got the assists, with Garrison’s helper being the 100th of his NHL career.  The following shift was the latest exhibit of why the shift after a goal is the most important in hockey, as Shane Prince, who was stopped by Bishop on an earlier 2-on-1 rush, jumped on a Sustr turnover.  Prince kept the puck on the 2-on-1, rifling a shot past Bishop just 23 seconds after Stamkos’s goal, narrowing the score to 3-2 and stifling the Bolts’ momentum with his fifth of the season.  The Lightning would have a couple more power play chances as the period went on, and although their puck movement and offensive zone time were much-improved, they were still unable to convert with the man-advantage.  Brian Boyle had a deflection in front on one of those power plays that bounced off the post, while Johnson had a rebound that he couldn’t corral following a shot by Palat.  Despite the Lightning holding a significant advantage in shots and scoring chances in the second period, the Islanders were able to tie it 3-3 when Johnny Boychuk’s shot from the right point deflected off of Sustr and into the net.  Sustr and Strome were both screening Bishop, who never got a good look at the shot.  In the dying seconds of the period, Palat had another chance off a rebound, but Greiss was able to make a fantastic save, as the Bolts were outshooting the Islanders 31-19 heading into the second intermission.

In the third period, the trio of Palat, Johnson, and Marchessault continued to be a thorn in the Islanders’ side, generating some quality chances and keeping New York on their heels.  Stamkos would soon get a good look after receiving a centering pass from Killorn, but Greiss was there to make the save.  Sustr would eventually atone for his earlier turnover on the second Islanders goal and bad puck luck on New York’s third goal by giving the Lightning a 4-3 lead with his third of the season at the 6:03 mark.  Garrison kept the puck in the zone and slid it over to Sustr, who unleashed a huge shot from just past the high slot area that beat Greiss.  But remember that old adage about the shift after a goal being so important?  The Islanders proved it right again, when Travis Hamonic found Frans Nielsen with a breakout pass through the neutral zone.  Nielsen then dished it to Nikolay Kulemin, who flew down the left wing and beat Bishop with a wrist shot that he probably would’ve liked to have back.  Kulemin’s seventh goal of the season came just 19 seconds after Sustr had given Tampa Bay the lead, and all of a sudden, it was a 4-4 hockey game.

With the way that the Palat-Johnson-Marchessault line was playing, one couldn’t help but think that this line was due for a goal, and with 9:51 remaining, Johnson delivered.  It all started with Marchessault carrying the puck into the right circle, where he sent a wrist shot on net that was stopped by Greiss and popped up into the air.  Palat gathered the rebound and sent it on net, touching off a wild scramble and a loose puck that Johnson knocked in for his 13th goal, giving the Lightning a 5-4 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.  On the ever-important shift right after a goal, it was Garrison who padded the lead just 23 seconds after Johnson’s goal.  Marchessault had the puck in the neutral zone and sent it up the right wing to Palat, who broke into the Islanders’ zone.  Palat spotted Garrison joining the rush and found him with an excellent pass over on the left wing.  Garrison then finished it off with a beautiful wrist shot that whistled its way past Greiss for his fifth of the season, putting the Bolts up 6-4 and unleashing pandemonium at Amalie Arena.  Victor Hedman then put a bow on this one by scoring into an empty net with 1:25, sealing a 7-4 victory with his seventh goal.

The Lightning will return to action Saturday night when they host the Florida Panthers at 7 pm in a battle for sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division.

 

THREE STARS OF THE GAME

1st Star:  Jason Garrison – Notched a goal and two assists, finishing plus-3 for the night

2nd Star:  Ondrej Palat – Finished with three assists and was constantly generating scoring chances throughout the evening

3rd Star: Jonathan Marchessault – Notched a pair of assists and his hustle and energy were crucial to the Lightning’s efforts tonight

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