The Tampa Bay Lightning (2-3-2) looked like a completely different team compared to their previous five games, as they defeated the Islanders 4-1 in a much needed victory on Thursday night.
Steven Stamkos had a goal and an assist and Mathieu Garon saved 16 of the 17 shots he faced in the win over the New York Islanders. Garon did not have to be relied on too much to make big plays or stand on his head because he had much more defensive support than the Lightning have given their goaltenders in previous games.
In the Lightning’s last five games, the talk has been surrounding poor defensive play and an undisciplined amount of penalties. None of that was on display tonight. On the defensive front, Eric Brewer, (who was said to have an upper body injury) showed no signs of ailment with his four hits and four blocked shots against the Islanders.
Tampa Bay only had two penalties the entire game and did not allow a power play goal. They did however, get a power-play goal themselves, on a wrist shot by Ryan Malone in the first period that was assisted by Vincent Lecavalier and Marc Andre Bergeron. Bergeron now has two goals and six assists and is on a five-game scoring streak.
Defensive zone coverage was much better in this game and it was obvious in the early goings of the game that Guy Boucher had been stressing better defensive play. The Lightning did not allow the Islanders to register a shot on goal until more than eight minutes through the first period.
While showing some much needed improvements on defense, the Lightning also showed a much improved offensive game as well, out shooting the Islanders 30-17, giving New York little room to maneuver throughout the game. This was probably the best positional game the Lightning have played so far this season.
The Lightning could have easily led by more than one goal in the first period, as they got a flurry of chances on Islander goalie Al Montoya, including Adam Hall’s breakaway mid way through the first period where Hall fought off Islander defensemen, Mark Streit, to register two back-to-back shots on the Islanders goaltender. Lecavalier’s one-timer late in the first period was also denied by Montoya. Victor Hedman had chance in final minutes of the first period, but he hit the right post to keep it a one goal game.
The Lightning’s improved defensive play continued in the second period, and they showed a lot more hustle getting to the puck than they have in previous games. It also helped that the Islanders did not register a shot on goal until 12:43 of the second period.
Lecavalier got the puck in the second period, waited for the defense to give him an open shooting lane, and put the puck past Montoya to extend the Lightning’s lead to 2-0 with 4:46 left in the second period.
Stamkos then netted his third goal of the season, 5:25 into the third period after a setup by Teddy Purcell. It was just enough of a cushion for the Lightning, especially because Michael Grabner answered that goal at 7:55, beating Garon short side.
Brett Clark sealed the win by scoring a goal with 3:01 left in the third period.
Notes: This is only the second time the Lightning have scored first this season, and the first time the Lightning had the lead after the first period.