UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Stop the first shot.
That's the message Lightning coach Guy Boucher sent to his goaltenders. Don't worry about rebounds; the defense will clear them out.
"You just want to keep as many of those first shots as possible out of the net, so it doesn't take away from the momentum of the team," goalie Dan Ellis said.
The plan worked perfectly during a much-needed 4-2 win Wednesday night against the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.
Tampa Bay kept most of New York's 36 shots to the outside. Ellis made a solid 34 saves, and though he perhaps allowed more rebounds than he would have liked, teammates were on the spot to sweep them away.
Add another stellar special-teams effort, with power-play goals from Steven Stamkos (with .2 seconds left in the first period) and Brett Clark, and a 4 for 4 effort on the penalty kill, and the Lightning (9-7-2) snapped a three-game losing streak against a team on a 0-10-1 skid playing its first game under new coach Jack Capuano.
Marty St. Louis had a goal and an assist to give him 700 career points, and Nate Thompson's hustling empty-net goal pushed the Lightning past three goals in a game for only the second time in its past nine.
The miniburst of goals was nice, but the bigger story was a solid game in net. For all the lamenting about Tampa Bay's lack of goals, the numbers for Ellis and Mike Smith also have been sketchy: a combined 3.14 goals-against average with an .881 save percentage in a 1-5-1 slide.
"Stopping the first shot is more important than the two-on-ones or backdoor plays," Boucher said. "We're a pretty good team for shots against, so if we take care of the first shot coming from the outside, we're confident."
Ellis created confidence while the Islanders, outshot 40-36 in the game, outshot Tampa Bay 25-13 in the final 33:47 after Mattias Ritola got a five-minute charging penalty for drilling Matt Mouslon into the boards from behind.
"The second half, I'm really not too happy about," Boucher said. "We changed the way we're supposed to do things. They were getting better and better. We were getting worse and worse."
Still, Tampa Bay never trailed, and Ellis was at fault only on Moulson's goal with 2:34 left in the second that made the score 2-1. "I didn't quite get my leg down soon enough," Ellis said.
After that, Ellis stopped first shots and teammates such as Clark, who had six of Tampa Bay's 21 blocks, lent support.
Just like they planned.
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 16 (Clark, St. Louis), 19:59 (pp). Penalties—Ritola, TB (hooking), 2:45; Reese, NYI (holding stick), 13:29; Bailey, NYI, double minor (slashing), 19:13.
Second Period—2, Tampa Bay, Clark 3 (St. Louis, Stamkos), 12:49 (pp). 3, NYI, Moulson 7 (Konopka), 17:26. Penalties—Ritola, TB, major (charging), 6:13; Tavares, NYI (roughing), 6:13; Hunter, NYI (boarding), 11:41; Hall, TB (hooking), 14:46.
Third Period—4, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 8 (Downie, Lundin), 18:31. 5, NYI, Tavares 7 (Moulson, Wisniewski), 18:52. 6, Tampa Bay, Thompson 2, 19:44 (en). Penalties—Bailey, NYI (boarding), 1:56; Hedman, TB (slashing), 10:51; Konopka, NYI, misconduct, 19:44. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 19-13-8—40. NYI 11-15-10—36. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 2 of 5; NYI 0 of 4. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Ellis 5-4-2 (36 shots-34 saves). NYI, Roloson 2-8-1 (39-36). A—8,025 (16,234).