Game 20 recap: Slow start dooms Lightning in 5-2 defeat by New York Islanders
The Tampa Bay Lightning battled back after ceding a big lead to the New York Islanders, but couldn't find enough goals, ultimately falling 5-2 at Nassau Coliseum.
You can call it a hangover if you want, following a convincing 5-1 win over the New York Rangers the night before at Madisn Square Garden.
The trip from there to Long Island doesn't take very long, however, so "it was a back-to-back" doesn't really hold up as an excuse. The Islanders were on the attack early and often and beat their former netminder Evgeni Nabokov enough times to seal a victory even as the Bolts pushed back late in the second and third periods.
The Lightning briefly held a lead in the first period -- their only lead of the evening -- when Alex Killorn scored on his own rebound through the five hole of Jaroslav Halak, acquired during the summer from the St. Louis Blues to replace the departing Nabokov.
The Bolts weathered a good start from the Isles, but got blitzed for three consecutive goals in the middle frame to end up in a 3-1 hole. Cal Clutterbuck opened the scoring in the second with a laser past Nabokov's ear on a shorthanded break where he stole an Anton Stralman drop pass. Mikhail Grabovski followed that with an easy marker from the right circle as Nabokov came way out to challenge a shooter and left the net wide open. Ryan Strome then connected on a high slot shot that tipped off Radko Gudas' stick and over Nabokov's glove.
Brock Nelson scored off a deflection on an early power play opportunity -- 1 of 6 man advantages for the Isles --before Ondrej Palat drew the bolts back within two goals in the third period off another rebound tally. Casey Cizikas snuffed out any hope of a comeback with a breakaway goal as the Lightning got too aggressive pinching in to try and draw even.
- Evgeni Nabokov's return to Nassau didn't go as well as planned. The Lightning gave up a handful of grade A scoring chances, no doubt, but Nabby still struggled here, ending up with an .861 save percentage and giving up 3 goals on 26 even strength shots.
- The Lightning penalty kill still needs some work, but found a way to kill off 67 seconds of 5v3 time in the first period, even with Brian Boyle (a key penalty killer) in the box.
- Interestingly enough, head coach Jon Cooper opted to scratch two of his vets -- Brenden Morrow and Eric Brewer sat in the pressbox while J.T. Brown and Mark Barberio drew into the lineup.
- Former Tampa Bay Lightning forward Cory Conacher was a healthy scratch for the Islanders.
- Next up for the Lightning is the first meeting with Atlantic Division opponent the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday, who got shellacked 9-2 at the hands of the Nashville Predators. The Bolts -- who put the final nail in the Leafs' playoff coffin a season ago -- might have the chance to do something worse this year, as calls for Randy Carlyle's head intensify with each Toronto loss.