TAMPA — The first smack on the back for Lightning goaltender Mike McKenna came from teammate Olie Kolzig in the hallway to the locker room. Teammate Adam Hall was next.
But that was just a prelude.
When McKenna entered, teammates called his name. Steve Eminger and Ryan Malone applauded.
It was a well-deserved tribute for the rookie, who on Saturday, in his second NHL start, earned a 28-save 1-0 shutout of the Islanders at the St. Pete Times Forum.
"I've experienced that at other levels but never in the NHL," McKenna said of the reception. "It's hard to describe. It's quite a feeling."
The timing could not have been better for Tampa Bay (18-24-11), which snapped a four-game skid to start a six-game homestand it likely must sweep to remain even remotely in the playoff picture.
"A lot of shots, a lot of scoring opportunities," Eminger said. "He came up big for us."
Added right wing Marty St. Louis: "He was tremendous."
So was Gary Roberts, who scored the winner, his third goal of the season, with 6:26 left in the third by tipping Eminger's point shot past goalie Yann Danis.
But the story was McKenna, 25, signed out of necessity a week ago from AHL Norfolk because of injuries to No. 1 Mike Smith and backup Kolzig.
His first start Wednesday in Pittsburgh was a downer as Tampa Bay fell 4-3, though he bore no blame for the third-period meltdown in which the Penguins scored three times.
On Saturday, there was nowhere to look but up.
"How can you not root for a kid like that?" coach Rick Tocchet said. "Who is he? Where did he come from? The whole deal, and now he's our starting goalie. He's a pretty unflappable kid."
If the St. Louis native was going to come apart, it was with 27 seconds left as New York's Kyle Okposo had a partial breakaway after picking up the puck as he exited the penalty box.
McKenna made the stop then got his left leg down to stop Okposo's rebound try from the side of the net.
"Do you believe that?" McKenna said of the breakaway. "That's what you dream of as a kid, making that save. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw him coming out of the box. It's hockey. Breaks like that happen. Fortunately, it hit my blocker."
McKenna's parents, Terry and Beverly, missed that moment. Starting from the fifth-floor club section, they were on their way to the locker room and worrying, Terry said, that, "I don't know the building. I'm not going to make this."
"He's a pretty calm guy," Terry said of his son.
Does he get that from you?
"Yeah, if somebody is going to be yelling and screaming, it's going to be his mom."
So when McKenna said Saturday felt like "another game," he meant it.
"That's the whole basis, try to be as calm as you can and try to do my job," he said.
Was he calm facing Okposo with 27 seconds left?
"You have to try," McKenna said, "but realistically your heart is going a million miles an hour."
About the same as it was in the locker room.
First Period—None. Penalties—Jackman, NYI, major (fighting), :04; Smaby, TB, major (fighting), :04; Malone, TB (tripping), 1:31; Downie, TB (slashing), 4:52; Park, NYI (holding), 7:29; Guerin, NYI, major (fighting), 16:23; Malone, TB, major (fighting), 16:23.
Second Period—None. Penalties—Ranger, TB (tripping), :54; Gervais, NYI (tripping), 3:11; Artyukhin, TB (hooking), 6:14.
Third Period—1, Tampa Bay, Roberts 3 (Eminger, Stamkos), 13:34. Penalties—Okposo, NYI (hooking), 17:26; Park, NYI (high-sticking), 17:46. Shots on Goal—N.Y. Islanders 7-9-12—28. Tampa Bay 16-5-7—28. Power-play opportunities—N.Y. Islanders 0 of 4; Tampa Bay 0 of 4. Goalies—N.Y. Islanders, Danis 4-6-1 (28 shots-27 saves). Tampa Bay, McKenna 1-0-1 (28-28). A—14,810 (19,758).