A BIT OF EVERYTHING
Fans at the Coliseum Monday night saw a power-play goal, a shorthanded tally and a successful penalty shot, but two of the three were credited to the Lightning, as the Islanders lost their fifth straight game, 2-1. Jeff Hamilton scored the lone goal for New York.
The Lightning put the pressure on their hosts early in the game, with Vaclav Prospal getting a good chance on net in the first minute. Taking the puck from behind the net, the Tampa wing went across the crease, but rolling to his back and getting his leg pads in the air, goaltender Garth Snow kept the Lightning off the scoreboard.
The early momentum stayed with the visitors, as the Islanders were called for four penalties in the first nine minutes of the game. Despite facing 14 shots over eight minutes of shorthanded hockey, Snow was able to maintain a scoreless tie with help from his penalty killers. When 20 minutes were done, the Lightning held a 19-10 shot advantage.
If the ice didn't feel tilted after four penalties, it certainly did when Vincent Lecavalier was awarded a penalty shot at 13:18 of the first period. A chip pass up the boards sent Lecavalier on a breakaway attempt that was broken up from behind by Shawn Bates, for the Islanders' fifth penalty of the period. Alone on the ice and coming in fast on Snow, Lecavalier faked left and moved to the right, flipping a backhander into the net for a 1-0 lead. A sixth penalty left the Islanders shorthanded to end the period and to start the second.
The second period started with the Islanders in familiar territory, as they killed off the remainder of Alexei Zhitnik's first-period hooking penalty. The story remained the same offensively, as the Lightning kept the locals pinned in their own zone in the early going. Of the first eight shots of the second, only one was fired by a player in blue and orange.
Once the Islanders were able to get over to Tampa's side of the ice, it forced the Lightning's Dmitry Afanasenkov to take a hooking penalty that set up one of the most unusual power plays seen recently. In the course of one shift, two of Tampa Bay's players had their sticks broken, resulting in a 5-on-2-and-two-guys-without-sticks. Despite the disadvantage, the Lightning were able to crowd their crease and use their hands and legs to keep the Islanders without a goal.
On the other end of the rink, Brent Sopel did a pretty good imitation of a goaltender, saving two goals on one shift. A floating shot headed to open net was scooped away by Sopel's hand, before he "stacked the pads" and blocked Vaclav Prospal's easy tap-in attempt a moment later.
With two minutes left in the second period, the Islanders received a chance to even things up with two Lightning players in the sin bin, and took advantage of it. Just after the first penalty to Ruslan Fedotenko expired, Jason Blake looked cross-ice and fed the recently-promoted Hamilton with a sharp pass that he one-timed past Burke to knot the game at 1-1.
A last-second Tampa rush threatened to send the Lightning to the locker room with a lead, when Martin St. Louis was set up by Lecavalier, who blocked Arron Asham's shot in the Lightning zone. Flying up ice, St. Louis beat Brad Lukowich into the offensive zone, and out-waited a diving Snow, only to tuck the puck just outside the right goal post.
The third period didn't continue the manic pace of the first two periods, though the Islanders were called twice for penalties in the first 10 minutes, including a hooking call on Alexei Yashin that nullified an Islanders power play early on. When the Islanders did get a full man-up opportunity, it was the Lightning who cashed in. Taking a long-distance three-zone pass, St. Louis got behind the Islanders defense and beat Snow one-on-one, roofing a shorthanded goal for the eventual game-winner.
OFF THE ICE: Three Stars of the Night: 1. Martin St. Louis, 2. Garth Snow, 3. Vincent Lecavalier... Before the game, Mike York was named the H.L. Gross & Bros. Jewlers Player of the Month for December... Jeff Hamilton and Wade Dubielewicz took the ferry to Long Island, while Wyatt Smith returned to Bridgeport... For the Islanders, Rick DiPietro (knee), Kevin Colley (knee), Petteri Nokelainen (knee) and Tomi Pettinen (healthy) were scratched, while the Lightning sat Ryan Craig (healthy)... In the past 10 regular-season meetings, the Islanders are 5-5 against Tampa Bay... Brad Lukowich and Rob DiMaio have worn both teams' sweaters in their careers... The Lightning hold a 2-0 edge in the season series, after wins on Long Island and in Florida.
--additional reporting by Brian Bohl
Garth Snow on what needs to be done to improve:
"The way things are going for us; every team goes through it. We have to come out and win the first period next game"
On the team's mindset:
"We've been in streaks and slides like this before, so we need to take it shift by shift and try to turn it around. It's up to me to play better and everybody up and down the line."
Steve Stirling on his assessment of the game:
"Garth kept us in the game. I thought we let him down early but we fought a way to climb back into it. We had a lot of (opportunities) and missed the net a lot, and we didn't get second chances."
On stopping penalties in the future:
"They can't score in the mid-zone, so why hook a guy? The only tool (a coach) has is to sit guys, if you have that luxury. I'd do that to anybody if it was the right thing to do. Nobody is exempt. It's simple: if you play well, you get ice time."
(12) Oleg Kvasha-(79) Alexei Yashin-(81) Miroslav Satan
(55) Jason Blake-(16) Mike York-(7) Trent Hunter
(45) Arron Asham-(17) Shawn Bates-(37) Mark Parrish
(11) Mattias Weinhandl-(18) Jeff Hamilton-(49) Eric Godard
(77) Alexei Zhitnik-(3) Brent Sopel
(44) Janne Niinimaa-(25) Brad Lukowich
(14) Chris Campoli-(24) Radek Martinek
(30) Garth Snow
(34) Wade Dubielewicz
(33) Fredrik Modin-(4) Vincent Lecavalier-(26) Martin St. Louis
(20) Vaclav Prospal-(19) Brad Richards-(76) Evgeny Artyukhin
(17) Ruslan Fedotenko-(27) Tim Taylor-(18) Rob DiMaio
(29) Dmitry Afanasenkov-(25) Dave Andreychuk-(8) Martin Cibak
(54) Paul Ranger-(22) Dan Boyle
(5) Darryl Sydor-(21) Cory Sarich
(13) Pavel Kubina-(44) Nolan Pratt
(1) Sean Burke
(47) John Grahame