The advanced metrics won’t be pretty for this game, but the ultimate result was accomplished. The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the New York Islanders 4-2 in a game where they were largely outplayed. Andrei Vasilevskiy was the star this evening with 35 saves, and the Lightning offense took advantage of a dominant second period and a fortuitous bounce late in the third to seal the game.
Tampa Bay’s first period was a messy one. They allowed the Islanders to control the puck and dictate the pace of the game for nearly the entire period. The Lightning had some spurts of control, but they largely spent the first 20 minutes chasing the Islanders.
New York struck first at 3:40 after Josh Bailey out-battled Anton Stralman and Yanni Gourde in the slot and fired a shot between Vasilevskiy’s blocker and side. Tampa Bay proceeded to negate an early power-play with a too many men call and could never find their footing afterward.
If it wasn’t for the play of Vasilevskiy and the defense keeping most of New York’s chances to the outside the score could’ve been a lot worse.
Tampa Bay flipped the script for the first half of the second period and showcased why they are the top team in the Eastern Conference. They repeatedly pinned New York in their own zone and pressured Robin Lehner for what felt like an eternity. Surprisingly, it was the third line that spearheaded this pressure by out-battling the Islanders along the boards. This bled into the other three Lightning lines and for roughly six minutes it felt like the puck never left the Islanders zone.
It finally paid off when a young rookie fired one home.
Anton Stralman bounced a pass off the glass that found Alex Killorn in the neutral zone. Killorn then fed a pass to a flying Joseph as he entered the offensive zone. Joseph then used the Islanders defender as a screen to cleanly beat Lehner low on the blocker side to knot the game at one. This was Joseph’s first goal at Amalie Arena. If the floodgates have opened for the youngster, lets hope he continues to bury beauties like these.
Tampa Bay wouldn’t relinquish their pressure and just five and a half minutes later they would score again to take the lead.
This is a perfect microcosm of what Tampa Bay did for the first 12 minutes of the second period, winning puck battles and forcing the Islanders into uncomfortable situations. The best part about this goal was Mikhail Sergachev skating further into the zone to pull a defender closer to him so he could feed a no-look pass to J.T. Miller. Miller wasted no time firing a one-timer that beat Lehner through the five-hole to make it 2-1 Lightning.
The Islanders tilted the ice back in their favor during the remaining eight minutes of the period due to a strong penalty kill after Anders Lee was called for slashing. Tampa Bay’s power-play struggled to generate any semblance of control and New York fed off that momentum. Before the Lee penalty, the Islanders had three shots—afterward they had seven to finish with 10 compared to Tampa Bay’s 11.
Their pressure forced Tampa Bay into two penalties near the end of the period, one on Dan Girardi for interference and one on Cedric Paquette for slashing. They managed to get out of the period without conceding a goal, but New York would enter the third on a 5-on-3.
Thanks to the stellar play of Vasilevskiy, Ryan McDonagh, Ryan Callahan, and Braydon Coburn the Lightning killed the penalties. Unfortunately, New York still managed control of the game and ultimately tied the game at 8:43.
Simply put, Tampa Bay skated around here. Adam Pelech carried the puck behind the net before feeding a brilliant pass through the crease to a wide open Josh Bailey. Bailey fired high to the far side and beat Vasilevskiy for the equalizer.
Tampa Bay struggled to maintain much pressure on 5-on-5, but did manage a few good looks as the period progressed. The problem was that New York was getting more looks and in dangerous areas. New York ended up leading in scoring chances 26-19 and in high danger scoring chances 11-5. Another scary moment for Tampa Bay came when Brayden Point went down to the ice after colliding with Johnny Boychuk in the offensive zone. I didn’t see the entire play, but Point managed to skate back to the bench under his own power. He did skate another shift for the remainder of the game. Cooper clarified that he was fine after the game and will be fine moving forward.
Lightning faithful all heave a massive sigh of relief
Luckily, all it took to seal the game was a fortuitous bounce that the Lightning pounced on.
A clearing attempt by Ryan Pulock bounced awkwardly off the boards and right onto the stick of Yanni Gourde. The Islanders forwards had already left the zone expecting the puck to clear, which left Gourde wide open to retrieve the puck. Nikita Kucherov immediately reacted by rotating toward the opposite side of the zone to receive a pass. Gourde fed the puck toward Kucherov where he faked a one-timer and instead made a slap pass to Tyler Johnson. Johnson tipped it up and past Robin Lehner to give the Lightning a 3-2 lead with 1:26 left.
New York would take a timeout shortly after to formulate a strategy in the offensive zone, but it did little because Steven Stamkos scored an empty netter.
Tampa Bay was a bit lucky this evening. They were outplayed for the first and third periods (and almost half of the second), but converted the chances they needed to. Ottawa comes to town on Saturday and if the last game against the Senators was a doozy, Tampa Bay best be ready or they’ll be wondering what happened.
The advanced metrics haven’t really shown it much during this season, but Ryan McDonagh has been absolutely fantastic for Tampa Bay this season. This was why the Lightning went and got him at the deadline last season. He’s still a workhorse and made a variety of plays that either alleviated pressure or caused the Islanders to make one too many passes in the offensive zone. He won’t put up huge offensive numbers, but he’s a massive cog in making the Lightning defensive system work so well.
It wasn’t good this evening. Tampa Bay looked discombobulated on the man advantage and struggled to maintain much pressure on New York. The team misses Victor Hedman on the man advantage.
Let’s hear it folks!