Nassau County Veterans War Memorial Coliseum remains unfriendly confines for the Lightning as they dropped their contest Saturday evening to the Islanders, 4-2.
The isles were without LW Matt Moulson, who was missing his first Isles game, ever, with the Flu. Moulson is John Tavares partner in crime and the one good bit of news on the competitive level is that Tavares did not score a goal at all tonight. Neither did Steven Stamkos for Tampa Bay, so both players remain at their respective places in the Rocket Richard trophy race.
A cross-checking penalty by the Islanders Thomas Hickey sent the Bolts to the power play 6:37 into the game,,, Though continued zone entry and puck possession failings by Tampa Bay, a chronic problem for too long now, made the man advantage situation simply an exercise in futility.
While I could go through the motions of reporting every little thing that happened in the 1st period, but the end result was the simplest to describe: The effort put forth was prototypical Tampa Bay Lightning hockey from this season: A few nice chances on offense, but more poor puck possession, giveaways, and opponent opportunities than should realistically be allowed. That was how they were playing.
Ben Bishop gave up a goal to Michael Grabner with thanks to a bad giveaway that enabled the chance. While it's nice to have a steady backstop, it's imperative the team doesn't hang him out to dry and expect him to save their asses for every mistake that's made. That's been the recent history in Tampa and I fear it will be the mentality going forward.
That irresponsible game play dominated the Lightning's first period. It was on display during Bishop's Lightning debut on Thursday too, but against a fading opponent in Carolina, who wasn't mustering the chances or driving the play at the same level as the (almost, maybe) playoff bound Isles.
The Isles would end up outshooting Tampa Bay 28-21 for the game, but it'd look much more lopsided in the Isles favor.
By the way, I've sullied Evgeni Nabokov twice this season while writing game previews here on Raw Charge; I characterized him as on-par with Lightning goaltenders statistically. A couple of saves in the first (and at other times during the game) made the comparison an insult. And for that, Mr. Nabokov, I apologize.
While the Isles tenacity continued to start the second, the Lightning decided to show up and make a game of it, with better puck possession and more takeaways which led to opportunities. But Nabokov was playing well for the Isles - he was doing what he had to do, and more at times (stopping Brett Connolly and Vincent Lecavalier in quick succession was an awesome effort to behold).
Richard Panik, though, broke through and put Tampa Bay on the board with a nice slapper from the lower boards, fed by Vincent Lecavalier (and Matt Carle).
The Islanders s answered and took the lead back 3:44 later with a shot by Josh Bailey from the slot right in front of Bishop. The play leading up to the goal made Tampa Bay look like it was playing shorthanded; the Isles flowed and controlled things easily in the Tampa Bay zone. This would be repeated a few times during the game at various times...
Matt Carle continued his very hot ways of recent for Tampa Bay with a goal to open up the third period and bring the game back to even.
Matt Martin took the game back for the Isles with 6:26 remaining in the game with a wrist shot. That
turned out to be the game winning goal though Andrew MacDonald would score on an empty Tampa Bay net to put the Isle ahead by 2 before it was all said and done.
And so, Tampa Bay's 4 game point streak comes to an end, coach Jon Cooper gets his first regulation loss of his coaching career at the NHL level, and the Bolts will have to regroup quickly to face the Washington Capitals tomorrow at Verizon Center.