UNIONDALE, N.Y. — A better game wasn’t good enough. The Lightning were improved over their previous two outings, but the streaking Islanders were more opportunistic to earn an eighth straight win Friday night, 5-2.
“I thought we played pretty well throughout the entire game,” forward Alex Killorn said. “We had some chances. They seemed to capitalize on theirs. That was the difference.”
Most of the game featured a one-goal differential. It wasn’t until the final minutes that the Islanders poured it on and made the score look bad.
The Lightning (6-5-2) took only two penalties, and they killed both off well. They kept the shots against down; the Islanders had 26. Those were two of the Lightning’s biggest issues recently. But they still didn’t quite play with an edge.
That partly was because of a strong defensive effort by the Islanders. They largely forced the Lightning to the perimeter and limited their quality scoring chances. Barry Trotz’s teams have always been good at that.
The Lightning also limited the Islanders’ quality chances, but the ones they gave up were juicy.
On the Islanders’ first goal, a great play by forward Mat Barzal, Lightning forward Mathieu Joseph lost an edge (he had to change his skate blade after the shift). On their third goal, an Islanders dump bounced off Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh and created a chance.
“That’s just the way things are kind of going for us right now,” Killorn said.
The latter goal, which gave the Islanders a 3-1 lead at 12:41 of the third, killed off strong momentum the Lightning had built through the first 10 minutes of the period. The Lightning failed to score on a power play and a few minutes later found themselves down two goals.
Things devolved from there.
“The thing you can’t do is sit here and say, ‘Why us?’ ” coach Jon Cooper said. “ ‘Why did I blow a tire there?’ or ‘How come this puck bounced here when it normally would bounce somewhere else?’ We can’t do that.”
On another opportunistic Islanders play, forward Anders Lee one-timed a puck off the boards, off goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy and into the net, giving New York a three-goal lead at 4-1, less than two minutes after it had gone up 3-1.
Cooper challenged the goal, saying there was a stoppage before the goal due to a high stick. He said the difference between a 4-1 game and a 3-1 game was worth the risk of taking a penalty for a lost challenge, which is what happened.
“I talked to the ref after, and he said it was close but they didn’t think it was conclusive,” Cooper said. “We were just trying to give our team a chance there.”
The Lightning killed off the ensuing penalty, and McDonagh scored with two minutes to play and an extra skater on the ice to cut their deficit to 4-2. But Derick Brassard restored the Islanders’ three-goal lead 81 seconds later with an empty-netter.
“When you win (eight straight games), there’s stuff going your way,” Joseph said. “We just didn’t have the bounces, and they were more opportunistic than us.”
Some of those bounces are a matter of perception. The Islanders did have some luck, but that didn’t come from their success. When a team is playing well, when it’s on a winning streak, it’s playing confidently, and that puts it in a position to take advantage of its luck.
The Islanders are playing with confidence. They’re ready for the bounces. The Lightning, who have lost three of their past four, feel like nothing is going their way. They don’t have that edge to their game right now.
Contact Diana C. Nearhos at email@example.com. Follow @dianacnearhos.
First Period—None. Penalties—Sergachev, TB, (hooking), 6:20 Johnston, NYI, Major (fighting), 12:51 Witkowski, TB, Major (fighting), 12:51.
Second Period—1, N.Y. Islanders, Barzal 6 (Leddy), 4:58. 2, Tampa Bay, Gourde 2 (Shattenkirk), 7:49. 3, N.Y. Islanders, Pulock 2 (Beauvillier, Brassard), 11:33. Penalties—Toews, NYI, (holding), 1:49 Clutterbuck, NYI, (interference), 5:45 Shattenkirk, TB, (tripping), 15:33.
Third Period—4, N.Y. Islanders, Bailey 5 (Barzal, Lee), 12:41. 5, N.Y. Islanders, Lee 5 (Boychuk), 14:27. 6, Tampa Bay, McDonagh 1 (Palat, Stamkos), 18:03. 7, N.Y. Islanders, Brassard 4 (Bailey, Lee), 19:24. Penalties—Mayfield, NYI, (delay of game), 7:21; Tampa Bay bench, served by Johnson (delay of game), 14:27.
Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 5-16-14_35. N.Y. Islanders 5-13-8_26. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 0 of 3 N.Y. Islanders 0 of 3. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Vasilevskiy 5-4-0 (25 shots-21 saves). N.Y. Islanders, Greiss 5-1-0 (35-33). A—12,043 (13,917). Referees—Brad Meier, Chris Schlenker. Linesmen—Bevan Mills, Libor Suchanek.