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How the Lightning fell flat in New York for the second straight night

A 4-goal loss to the Islanders ends a forgettable back-to-back set in which old problems resurface.
 
Lightning left wing Nick Paul (20) goes to the bench after a goal by the New York Islanders, right, during the first period of Thursday's game in New York.
Lightning left wing Nick Paul (20) goes to the bench after a goal by the New York Islanders, right, during the first period of Thursday's game in New York. [ NOAH K. MURRAY | AP ]
Published Feb. 9|Updated Feb. 9

ELMONT, N.Y. — The Lightning knew drawing the Rangers and Islanders on the road on back-to-back nights coming out of the All-Star break was going to be a tough task.

The emotional roller coaster they rode over a 24-hour stretch made it even more difficult.

The Lightning watched defenseman Mikhail Sergachev leave the ice on a stretcher Wednesday at Madison Square Garden and then heard of his surgery to repair fractures to the tibia and fibula in his left leg before Thursday night’s game in Long Island, potentially ending his season.

Both New York teams had games under their belts before facing the Lightning. Tampa Bay’s attempt to recapture the momentum it built before the break — when it won eight of nine — crashed hard with consecutive losses, capped by a 6-2 defeat to the Islanders at UBS Arena.

“I’m disappointed in how we’ve come out of this break,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “I thought we’d have a little bit more in us to make sure we were ready. But we’ve looked slow. We looked out of shape. We looked like we took 10 days off. And all the hard work we did to get ourselves in the spot we’re in, now we’re going to have to work our way back in by playing games, and that’s just not the way you can do it.”

The Lightning looked a lot like the team that at times seemed lost defensively early in the season, leaving opponents uncovered in front of the net and committing costly turnovers that gift-wrapped Grade-A scoring chances. For the first time in 11 games, Tampa Bay allowed more than three goals.

Backup goaltender Jonas Johannson, making just his second start in nearly six weeks, allowed the most goals he’s permitted in a regulation start this season.

An emotional carryover

Lightning left wing Brandon Hagel (38) plays the puck against New York Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock (6) during the third period.
Lightning left wing Brandon Hagel (38) plays the puck against New York Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock (6) during the third period. [ NOAH K. MURRAY | AP ]

The Lightning clearly were still rattled by losing Sergachev one night earlier.

They were unable to rally the way they did when Sergachev first got hurt in December and they played their best hockey of the season, particularly in the defensive end. Thursday, they spent too much time in their own zone early and couldn’t muster enough offense to build momentum.

“It’s tough,” said forward Brandon Hagel, who scored in both New York games. “We could have turned a negative into a positive and maybe did it for (Sergachev Wednesday) or did it for him (Thursday), and we weren’t able to do that.”

Breaking down, not through

New York Islanders center Jean-Gabriel Pageau (44) plays the puck against Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) and defenseman Victor Hedman (77) during the second period.
New York Islanders center Jean-Gabriel Pageau (44) plays the puck against Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) and defenseman Victor Hedman (77) during the second period. [ NOAH K. MURRAY | AP ]

The Lightning played one of their worst first periods of the season, allowing three even-strength goals while managing just three shots on goal in the opening 20 minutes.

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Still, they were inches away from tying the game at 3 when Anthony Cirelli hit the post just over five minutes into the second period. But 14 seconds later, Steven Stamkos took a hooking penalty to put New York on the power play.

The Lightning nearly killed the penalty, but Ryan Pulock’s shot from inside the blue line with seven seconds left on the power play slithered through traffic and into the back of the net. The goal, the first of three straight for the Islanders to end the period, extended their lead to 4-2.

“It kind of went downhill after that,” Cooper said. “Just not defending hard enough. ... We had given up six after two periods. You’re not going to win that way.”

Not enough on net

Lightning center Michael Eyssimont (23) plays the puck against New York Islanders defenseman Alexander Romanov (28) and center Kyle Palmieri (21) during the third period.
Lightning center Michael Eyssimont (23) plays the puck against New York Islanders defenseman Alexander Romanov (28) and center Kyle Palmieri (21) during the third period. [ NOAH K. MURRAY | AP ]

The Lightning had just 20 shots on goal against the Islanders and only 18 in their loss to the Rangers. The majority of their attempts either missed the net or were blocked . That included a number of looks in close that were shot wide.

“We get pucks to our defensemen, and they’ve got to get pucks through,” Cooper said. “And then when we’ve got opportunities in tight, we’ve missed some glorious opportunities. Some of our best chances were missing the net. So, that’s going be a point of emphasis for us.”

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