The New York Islanders hung tough with the Tampa Bay Lightning, extending sudden death three times in a marathon 13-round shootout before ultimately falling 3-2 Thursday night.
“At that point, it’s a coin-toss,” Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic said.
The Islanders – who picked up three of a possible four points on their road trip – held the Lightning’s high-octane offense to two goals in 65 minutes, including a critical penalty kill in the final 1:08 of overtime. The shorthanded unit collapsed in front of Evgeni Nabokov, blocked one-timers and dove to swat pucks to safety.
“There was a great block by Casey,” head coach Jack Capuano said. “We cleared the puck when we could, but they came right back. Hickey had a great read on [Steven] Stamkos and gave us a chance to win in the shootout.”
The Islanders controlled a good portion of the play through two periods and led 2-1 heading into the final frame. Strome had tied the score at one for the Islanders at 1:33 of the second period, just over a minute after Ryan Callahan opened the scoring with his first of two goals on the night.
The Islanders appeared to take the lead on a strange, shorthanded sequence shortly after, but the goal was called back due to a painfully close offside call on Brock Nelson, who was making a change at the Islanders bench at the time of Hamonic’s center-ice goal.
The disallowed goal galvanized the Islanders, who then attacked the Lightning in waves on the following shifts. After two unsuccessful tries by Lee, Matt Donovan put the Islanders ahead with his second goal of the season. With Lee and Nielsen working the puck below the goal line, Donovan skated into the slot undetected and one-timed Nielsen’s feed past Bishop.
“That’s the kind of effort we need,” Hamonic said. “We’re trying to play hard at this point of the season and we are just trying to get better each and every day. All we can ask of each other is to just keep working.”
The Lightning mounted a charge in the third period, outshooting the Islanders 10-4. Callahan chipped in the tying goal at 5:50, forcing overtime.
The young Islanders got younger Thursday night, as rookie John Persson made his NHL debut. Persson was recalled on an emergency basis from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers after Kyle Okposo was scratched late. In total the Islanders dressed 10 rookies for Thursday’s game.
Nabokov made 29 saves in the loss, while Bishop made 25 in the win.
The Islanders return home to face the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night. Puck drop goes at 7 p.m.
NOTES: John Persson skated 12:49 with three shots and one hit… The Islanders are 13-4-2 in their last 19 road games… Travis Hamonic (30:30) and Calvin de Haan (30:28) each played over 30 minutes… Anders Lee led the Islanders with five shots… Ryan Strome (one goal) and Matt Martin (one assist) each have three points in their last two games.
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