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Missed opportunities sink Tampa Bay in loss to Islanders

After Saturday night’s 7-1 thrashing of the San Jose Sharks, the Tampa Bay Lightning welcomed the New York Islanders to Amalie Arena with a chance to win back to back games. Prior to Saturday night, the Lightning had lost four of its previous five games. Tampa Bay sought to even the season series with New York after dropping a 5-2 decision on Long Island back on November 1st. 

The game began at a relatively quick pace. The first four minutes of action went without a single play stoppage. Each team fired their shots, but the goalies went untested for the most part early on. The Lightning earned the game’s first power play when Mitchell Stephens, making his NHL debut, was tripped by Adam Pelech. Tampa Bay was only able to get one shot on goal with the man advantage, but looked much more comfortable entering and staying in the offensive zone than in recent games.

The excitement of the fist period came when Cory Conacher and Cal Clutterbuck got tangled up in front of Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov after a Lightning shot. Clutterbuck initially appeared to have Conacher pinned to the ice. Conacher quickly turned the tables on Clutterbuck and ended up pinning the New York winger. Each player got their shots in and was assessed offsetting roughing minors. Following the scuffle, Pat Maroon exchanged words from the Lightning bench with Ross Johnston among other Islanders players.

Though each team had a couple of great looks at the net, the first period concluded in a scoreless tie.

Islanders break through in the second period

The middle period of this game saw an upswing in action for both teams. The score remained deadlocked at zero through the first six minutes. The Lightning had a tremendous scoring chance when Kevin Shattenkirk connected with Conacher on a stretch pass setting up a clean breakaway. Varlamov came through with a huge save and the action immediately shifted to the other end of the ice. Ross Johnston entered the Tampa Bay zone in a 2 on 1 chance with Josh Bailey. Opting for the shot rather than sneaking a pass around Luke Schenn, Johnston converted to give New York a 1-0 lead.

Less than two minutes later, New York added to their lead while shorthanded. An interference call on Scott Mayfield resulted in Tampa Bay’s second chance with the man advantage at the 7:30 mark of the period. Mayfield and Cedric Paquette were also each assessed roughing minors for an ensuing skirmish after the play. A mishandled puck by Steven Stamkos on a Lightning 4 on 2 chance resulted in a shorthanded breakaway for Josh Bailey. Bailey snapped a shot past the blocker of Curtis McElhinney to put New York up 2-0.

Tampa Bay gets one back and gains momentum

The Lightning finally turned momentum and surged late in the second period. At 15:35, Shattenkirk delivered a pass to Stamkos in front of the Islanders’ net. Stamkos spun and fired a backhand into the net over the stick of Varlamov to get Tampa Bay onto the scoreboard. The Lightning spent the majority of the final 4 minutes of the period in the offensive zone. Though there were a handful of great looks and chances during that stretch, the score remained 2-1 after two periods.

Stamkos’ goal created a momentum surge for the Lightning that carried into the third period. Tampa Bay went on the power play again just 43 seconds into the period. A hooking call on Michael Dal Colle awarded the advantage to the Bolts for the third time in the game. There were plenty of scoring chances created, but ultimately the Lightning did not convert. However, the momentum and offensive surge continued through the first 6 minutes of the period. Varlamov continued to come up strong, denying Tampa Bay the tying goal they sought. His saves throughout the night frustrated the Lightning, who weren’t without their fair share of chances.

Islanders blow it open

Just before the halfway point of the period, New York took the wind out of the Lightning’s sails. A puck mishandled behind the net by Luke Schenn ended up on the stick of Brock Nelson directly in front of the net. Nelson converted his easy opportunity to stretch the lead to 3-1.

This deflating goal gave the Islanders momentum they would not relinquish for the remainder of the game. At 9:53, Victor Hedman appeared to cut the Islanders lead to 3-2. However, a challenge by New York head coach Barry Trotz revealed a blatant offside on Anthony Cirelli, negating the goal.

The score remained 3-1 until Nelson netted his second of the game, and period, on a wrist shot from an Anders Lee pass. The Islanders scored once more from Lee himself at 16:05, giving New York a 5-1 win over the Lightning.

A night of frustration and missed opportunities for Tampa Bay

During his postgame press conference, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper noted “It was tough because we had it rollin’ there until they got the third one…we just couldn’t get it past him. It’s frustrating you wake up tomorrow and see 5-1, you know clearly it was not a 5-1 game.” Cooper commented on all the plays left on the ice that resulted in the final score. He admitted that it seemed like every time the Bolts missed a scoring opportunity, New York capitalized on one.

There is no doubt that the bottom fell out of this game late. But as frustrating as it was, the team played a hard, competitive game for the majority of 60 minutes of hockey. They simply ran into a hot goaltender and a team that made the most of the chances they were given.

Tampa Bay, now 14-11-3 on the season, travels to Sunrise tomorrow night to take on the Florida Panthers. The Lightning and Panthers traded wins in the first two games of the season, with each home team winning their opener.

For Jon Cooper’s press conference and player reactions to tonight’s game, check out our YouTube channel.

Three Stars

  1. Semyon Varlamov – 31/32 shots saved
  2. Josh Bailey – Game winning goal, 1 assist
  3. Brock Nelson – 2 goals







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