1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Lightning

Lightning fall into a familiar trap and can’t match the Islanders

Tampa Bay allows another flurry of goals and can’t overcome the deficit in a 5-1 loss.
Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Curtis McElhinney (35) gets beat on a short-handed breakaway goal by New York Islanders right wing Josh Bailey (12) during second-period action. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Curtis McElhinney (35) gets beat on a short-handed breakaway goal by New York Islanders right wing Josh Bailey (12) during second-period action. [DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Dec. 10, 2019
Updated Dec. 10, 2019

TAMPA — Coach Jon Cooper joked before Monday night’s game that playing the Islanders is like Groundhog Day — “They play the same way and they’re good at it.”

It might be starting to feel like Groundhog Day for the Lightning in a different way. They again played good hockey, but made costly mistakes and lost. It’s been a downward trend.

This game didn’t look as bad as the 5-1 score, after the Islanders piled on a couple of late goals. But even without those last two, the Lightning made enough mistakes to lose it.

“We need to eliminate those one, two big mistakes we’re making that are giving teams that cushion,” Kevin Shattenkirk said. “We’re in games if we eliminate those mistakes.”

Related: Mitchell Stephens made his NHL debut against the Islanders

The Islanders’ second goal was the Lightning’s worst moment. They had a power play and entered the zone four-on-two. Nikita Kucherov had an opening for a quick shot off the rush, but passed to Steven Stamkos in the left circle. Johnny Boychuk went down to block the shot, and Stamkos couldn’t get the shot off. This is where things got bad.

All four Lightning forwards had crashed the net and were down at the goal line as the puck deflected back the other way. Victor Hedman sank low to go for the puck, while Casey Cizikas dove and swiped at the puck, chipping it up the ice.

Now, Josh Bailey had a step on Hedman, who had to turn around, and thus a breakaway. Instead of a power-play goal to tie the score, the Lightning gave up a deflated shorthanded goal and were down by two.

“We gave it to them,” Cooper said. “It’s a lot of things (that broke down on the play).”

The Islanders scored timely goals. That shorthanded breakaway was their second in less than two minutes.

The first came off a play that started with a Lightning breakaway. Hedman threw an outlet pass from deep in his own zone to the opposite blue line for Cory Conacher. Semyon Varlamov made a pad save on Conacher, however, and the play immediately shifted back the other way.

Ryan Pulock picked up the loose puck and fed it up to Ross Johnston, who had a two-on-one with Bailey. Mitchell Stephens caught up to the play to eliminate Bailey. Luke Schenn laid out to block the shot, and Johnston elevated a wrister over him to put the Islanders on the board first.

That one was not a Lightning mistake, but an opponent taking advantage of an opportunity for a timely goal. That’s something last year’s Lightning did a lot of.

Islanders coach Barry Trotz credited his team’s “killer instinct,” something the Lightning recently said they need more of.

The Islanders’ third goal came off a weird bounce along the wall, not a mistake as much as luck, but still not a perfectly-played puck that turned into a two-goal lead.

To make matters worse, the Lightning thought they had come within a single goal a few minutes later, only to have it yanked away. Victor Hedman scored, but the Islanders challenged for offsides and they were right.

“It was too bad because we need those,” Cooper said. “But it wasn’t just offside, it was way offside.”

Stamkos pointed out the many chances the Lightning had. They took 32 shots, hit the post at least four times, and had a lot of shots blocked. But those chances didn’t go in.

On the other side, the Islanders had all facets clicking — both sides of special teams, defense and scoring. The Lightning haven’t been able to string all three of those together; they’ve had pieces.

“They were the more opportunistic team tonight,” Shattenkirk said. “We can’t beat ourselves up when we’re creating chances like that. But there are a couple of mistakes we need to address."


  1. FILE – In this Monday, Jan. 13, 2020 file photo, the Philadelphia Flyers' mascot, Gritty, performs during an NHL hockey game in Philadelphia. Chris Greenwell has alleged that the mascot punched his 13-year-old son, Brandon, after a photo shoot in November. The Incident is under investigation. [DERIK HAMILTON                        |  AP]
    The Flyers mascot is accused of punching a 13-year-old “as hard as he could.”
  2. United States' Kendall Coyne skates during the Skills Competition, part of the NHL All-Star weekend, in San Jose, Calif., Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. [BEN MARGOT  |  AP]
    Diana C. Nearhos | Women’s hockey is at a crossroads as players try to figure out what kind of professional league they want.
  3. Vegas Golden Knights NHL hockey team general manager Kelly McCrimmon holds a news conference in Ottawa, Wednesday, Jan 15, 2020. Head coach Gerard Gallant was fired less than two years after leading the Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Final. Peter DeBoer will be the coach for the rest of the season. [SEAN KILPATRICK  |  AP]
    Diana C. Nearhos | The NHL looks like musical chairs for coaches. Get to know Cedric Paquette.
  4. Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Alex Killorn (17) celebrate after he beats Arizona Coyotes goaltender Adin Hill (31) to score the first goal of the game during first period action at Amalie Arena on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020 in Tampa. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    The Lightning forward has hovered just below 20 goals for years and finally reached the mark Friday.
  5. Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) leads the celebration as players contratulate right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) after he beat Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick (32) to tie the game 3-3 in the final moments during third period action at Amalie Arena on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020 in Tampa. The Lightning went on to win 4 to 3 in the shootout.  [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Tampa Bay went from sixth place in the Atlantic Division to second behind a 10-game win streak.
  6. Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) gets beaten by a shot from Tampa Bay Lightning's Nikita Kucherov (86) as Lightning's Steven Stamkos (91) looks on during first-period NHL hockey game action in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. [JOHN WOODS  |  AP]
    Tampa Bay pours on the goals with seven total, including two from Nikita Kucherov.
  7. Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Luke Schenn (2) celebrates his goal, the first of the game, along with right wing Nikita Kucherov (86), defenseman Mikhail Sergachev (98) and center Tyler Johnson (9) beating New York Rangers goaltender Alexandar Georgiev (40) during first period action at Amalie Arena on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019 in Tampa. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Tampa Bay also reassigned Alex Volkov to AHL Syracuse as Pat Maroon returned to the lineup.
  8. Minnesota Wild's Zach Parise (11) tries to control the puck the puck against Tampa Bay Lightning's Jan Rutta (44) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, in St. Paul, Minn. [HANNAH FOSLIEN  |  AP]
    Tampa Bay falls off a recent trend of strong defense and lets Minnesota dictate the game.
  9. Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper watches from the bench as his team plays against the Minnesota Wild during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, in St. Paul, Minn. [HANNAH FOSLIEN  |  AP]
    Even if the play is erased by an earlier offsides, the penalty still must be served.
  10. Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) in the tunnel before heading out to the ice for warms ups before taking on the New York Rangers at Amalie Arena on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019 in Tampa.  [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Playing in Minnesota is special for McDonagh, who grew up 12 miles from St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center.