The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the New York Islanders 7-4 at Amalie Arena in Tampa Friday night.
The Lightning scored a season-high seven goals in getting a win that sets up a battle for undisputed first place in the Atlantic Division tomorrow with the Florida Panthers, a matchup the Lightning come into having won three in a row.
"First place is on the line so you know these guys are waiting for us in our home rink. We had a hard-fought game tonight, we'll get some rest, but I think everyone knows the magnitude of the game tomorrow." - Steven Stamkos
Not all the news is good, however as defenseman Anton Stralman is out indefinitely after suffering a non-displaced fracture of his left fibula early in the first period.
"Obviously he plays a lot of minutes. Power play, penalty kill, moves the puck well, skates the puck well, He is super consistent. Like I said, guys need to step up and fill his void and be as consistent as possible." - Jason Garrison
It looked like the Islanders were on the board early with a power play goal at 1:19 but it was waved off when the officials determined that the whistle had blown the play dead.
The Bolts were in the box three times in the first period and New York would open the scoring at 8:54, just after another power play had concluded when Brock Nelson scored on assists from Ryan Strome and Josh Bailey.
The Lightning tied things up at 13:42 when Nikita Kucherov deflected a shot by Alex Killorn. Andrej Sustr contributed the secondary assist.
They took their first lead just nine seconds later thanks to Nikita Nesterov scoring unassisted.
The first period ended with the Lightning on top 2-1.
At 5:02 of the second, the Bolts widened the margin to two when Stamkos found himself in perfect position to swat home a rebound off a Garrison shot. Kucherov was also credited with an assist on the play.
Just 23 seconds later, New York trimmed it back to a one-goal game when Shane Prince scored unassisted.
At 16:18, Johnny Boychuk tied the game again, getting assistance from John Tavares and Bailey.
The two teams entered the third period tied at two.
The Lightning broke back out on top again at 6:03 on a goal from Andrej Sustr on an assist from Garrison.
Continuing the theme of goals scored in rapid succession, the Islanders tied it again just 19 seconds later, this time thanks to a goal by Nikolay Kulemin with assists from Frans Nielsen and Travis Hamonic.
"It's not a trend that we want to have to keep doing. Two times tonight, we score and the next shift, they come back and score. That's unacceptable. In a group like ours, who pride themselves in playing the right way defensively; having to be aware of situations and moments in a game that can turn the tide. I mean, that could have easily went the other way." - Stamkos
The Lightning regained the lead for the final time at 10:09, with Tyler Johnson scoring, getting help from Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Marchessault.
Insurance showed up just 23 seconds later with Garrison scoring, assists again going to Palat and Marchessault.
"We obviously had a response with the two goals in the one shift there, but can't make a habit of that. It is a sign of life, though, in this group, and you know of all the things we have overcome throughout the year, hopefully we can continue this down the stretch." - Stamkos
Victor Hedman closed things out with an empty net goal at 18:35, getting help from Matt Carle and Palat on the play.
It's not overstating things to say that tomorrow's game is the most meaningful in the history between the Lightning and Panthers, with both teams tied at 91 points (although the Lightning have the edge via tiebreakers) and only eight games remaining in the regular season. The winner will be all alone in first place, and depending on outcomes involving Boston and Detroit, could be as many as seven points ahead of the third place team in the division.
- This was the second of three regular season match-ups between the two clubs with each winning a game at home. They'll meet again on April 4 in New York.
- The Lightning are 13-3-4 in their last 20 games against the Islanders, with an all-time record of 43-38-6.
- The nine second gap between the Kucherov and Namestnikov goals ties the team record for quickest back-to-back goals, set previously in 2004 by Dave Andreychuk and Freddy Modin and 2014 by Hedman and Kucherov. It's the first time it's happened at home.
- Stamkos has six goals in his last six games.
- Valtteri Filppula and Ryan Callahan were both scratched, although both are believed to be very close to returning from injuries.
- The Lightning have scored 18 goals in their last four games, winning their last three in a row.
- Garrison's first assist (on the Stamkos goal in the second) was the 100th of his NHL career. He registered three points (goal and two assists) on the night.
- 11 different Lightning players scored, with seven of the team's 18 points coming from defensemen.
- The Lightning honored Liza Trunzo as the 37th Lightning Community Hero of the 2015-16 season during the first period of tonight's game. Trunzo, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to Hannah's Homeless and Terra Nova Club and Resurrection House. Tonight's community hero has transformed the landscape of St. Petersburg through her assistance of the homeless. In 2012, Trunzo created Hannah's Homeless, an organization that distributes necessities such as water, snacks and toiletries to St. Petersburg's homeless population. Two years later, the organization established a walk-in center where the homeless can be provided extra services such as counseling and other unique resources. Since the construction of the walk-in center, approximately 8,000 individual visits occur annually. Trunzo has been responsible for the appointment of the organization's volunteer staff that is actively involved in improving the community for years to come. Her goal is to continue to meet the needs of the homeless population in St. Petersburg that is a discounted part of society. Trunzo becomes the 216th Lightning Community Hero since Jeff and Penny Vinik introduced the program in 2011-12 with a $10 million, five-season commitment to the Tampa Bay community. Through this evening's game, in total, the Lightning Foundation has granted $10.95 million to more than 300 different non-profits in the Greater Tampa Bay area.