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Slow start leads to Tampa Bay’s first loss to a Metropolitan Division opponent

On Saturday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning made history, becoming the first team in the expansion era to win 35 of their first 45 games thanks to a 5-3 victory in Buffalo. Facing the New York Islanders in the second game of a back-to-back, the Lightning could not keep up the pace from the night before, thanks to a slow start and a lights-out performance from goaltender Thomas Greiss.

The last time these two teams faced each other was November 8. Tampa Bay came away with a 4-2 win at home, but admittedly did not play their best game. Barry Trotz-led teams always give the Lightning fits. In a classic battle of a high-powered offense versus a stingy defense, the stingy defense proved too much for the Lightning to overcome. Both teams were also playing the second game of a back-to-back, but only Tampa Bay seemed tired.

First Period Woes

The Lightning have had trouble in the first period over the last handful of games. Starting off a game down by a few goals isn’t ideal, but the Lightning have often been able to fight their way out of any deficit. Apparently the plan was to put that to the test against the Islanders, as New York scored three goals in quick succession in the first 10 minutes of this contest.

Just 40 seconds into the game, the Islanders got the first power play courtesy of a high-sticking penalty committed by Erik Cernak. The penalty kill was outworked, constantly behind the flow of the puck, and unable to clear it. After a minute-and-a-half of work in the zone, Brock Nelson found the back of the net for the first goal of the game.

Now back at full strength and down by a goal, the Lightning still couldn’t get anything going. The Bolts failed to get through the neutral zone and spent most of the period on their heels. While heavily pressured Braydon Coburn committed a turnover in his own zone and Cal Clutterbuck made them pay, making it 2-0. As if the game couldn’t get any worse, Devon Toews extended the Isles’ lead to 3-0 off a slap shot from the blue line 16 seconds after Clutterbuck’s goal.

The Lightning created some chances towards the end of the period and found their rhythm a bit, but the first came to an end with the Lightning staring at big hole.

Second Period Progress

As horrendous as the first period was, the second couldn’t possibly be worse, right? Well about thirty seconds into the period, Victor Hedman went to retrieve a puck and turned right into a referee. Hedman might have hit his head in the collision and did not come back into the game. Tampa Bay picked up the pace and really peppered Greiss with shots, but still could not convert. The Islanders’ fourth line continued to create problems for the Lightning. Casey Cizikas sent the puck through a tiny crease that Vasilevskiy failed to seal, making the score 4-0.

The Lightning out-shot the Islanders in the second period, but Greiss made some incredible saves to keep the Tampa Bay scoreless. Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos were denied on some Grade A opportunities. The Bolts finally got on the scoreboard when Ryan McDonagh joined the rush and shot for the five hole. The puck squeaked through and hit the net, making it 4-1.

Greiss withstands the late rush

Starting the third period down 4-1, Tampa Bay brought the pressure. Lightning coach Jon Cooper mixed up some different lines to try and create pressure. Trotz kept three skaters on the Islanders blue line at all times to hinder zone entries. The third period was hard-fought by both sides, but the Islanders played smart and effective defense, clogging shooting lanes and not letting the Lightning get comfortable in the offensive zone.

Vasilevskiy came out with ten minutes left to allow an extra attacker, but went back in when the puck was cleared. He then came back out with three minutes left and despite great pressure by the Lightning, the Islanders scored an empty-netter and put it away with a final score of 5-1.¬†Greiss played an incredible game, stopping many of the Lightning’s All-Star scorers on some great scoring chances.

Our Three Stars of the Game

  1. Thomas Greiss- 38 Saves and a .974 SV%
  2. Matt Martin- Two assists
  3. Casey Cizikas- One goal and one assist

Up Next

The Lightning travel to Dallas to play the Stars on January 15th at 8:30 pm EST.

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