The Islanders held their opponents to six shots in each period, and Evgeni Nabokov stood tall to make all 18 saves in a 2-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday at Tampa Bay Times Forum.
The Islanders goaltender made key saves on Steven Stamkos and Ryan Malone during the third period to record his second shutout of the season and 54th of his career. The Islanders held Tampa Bay to an 0-for-2 night on the power play, surviving a third period minor to one of their top penalty killers, Frans Nielsen, and playing the whole game without another in Michael Grabner.
Following the game, Nabokov credited the players in front of him for holding the Lightning off the score board for 60 minutes.
“[Tampa Bay] is going to get chances, but the key is what kind of chances they’re going to get, where they’re coming from and how much zone time they’re going to get,” Nabokov said. “I thought we did a pretty good job on their big guys. We didn’t give them a lot of great looks, so this was a team effort in the zone, not only from the defense, but also the forwards helping out and staying on the puck.”
Matt Martin drew a tripping minor on Alex Killorn for the game’s first penalty 30 minutes in, and 27 seconds later, the Islanders capitalized on the power play. Mark Streit’s shot from the top of the zone was deflected by Brad Boyes onto the stick of Matt Moulson in the crease. Moulson made a behind-the-back pass to Tavares on the left side, who converted a relatively easy tap-in over sprawled out Lightning goaltender Anders Lindback. The goal was the eighth power play marker of the season for Tavares, tying him for the league lead.
“We had good movement,” Boyes said. “That’s what our strength is on the power play – our movement. Guys moving around, moving the puck and shooting the puck. It was an all-around good play.”
Late in the second period, Streit was called for hooking, sending Tampa Bay to the man advantage. The Islanders avoided any real scoring threat during the 4-on-5, not allowing a shot.
After the Islanders held a 22-12 advantage in shots on goal through 40 minutes, the ice tilted more in Tampa Bay’s favor during the third period. Four minutes in, Stamkos redirected Radko Gudas’ shot from the right point on net, but Nabokov slid to his left and made a blocker save to keep the Lightning off the board.
Marty Reasoner nearly doubled the Islanders lead two minutes later when Matt Martin found him with a centering pass on a 2-on-1 rush. Reasoner deked to his backhand to go around Lindback, but was robbed by the left pad of the Lightning netminder.
Midway through the third period, Frans Nielsen was assessed a holding penalty, giving Tampa Bay its second man advantage of the game. Perhaps Nabokov’s best save of the night came early during the minor when he prevented Ryan Malone’s close-range deflection from doing any damage. The Islanders survived the penalty kill despite facing consistent pressure from Martin St. Louis, Stamkos and Malone.
“The third period wasn’t the best but we still shut them down,” Boyes said. “We didn’t give them tight chances, even though they had more zone time than we would have liked. We found a way tonight. That’s what we’re learning how to do this season.”
The game remained 1-0 in the Islanders favor until the waning moments. Lindback was pulled for an extra attacker with a minute and a half remaining, and after a final goal line stand by Nabokov, Boyes received a clearing attempt off the boards, skated to center ice, and put the game away with his seventh tally of the season.
Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano was pleased with the way his team responded from Sunday’s loss at Pittsburgh and took advantage of the only three-day stretch they will see between games this season.
“Whenever you have time to practice on some things, it helps for sure,” Capuano said. “We worked on conditioning, but at the same time, we worked on some other things we needed to work on. You can only show so much video. Our guys battled tonight. We had some injuries, some guys got banged up, but all 20 guys battled tonight.”
The Islanders finish their three-game road trip Saturday, March 16, when they take on the Florida Panthers at 7:30 p.m. Florida is the only Eastern Conference team the Islanders have not yet faced this season.
Notes: The win was the 324th of Evgeni Nabokov’s career, tying him with Sean Burke for 21st all-time … The Islanders ended a seven-game point streak for Martin St. Louis (three goals, nine assists) … The Islanders had a perfect night on the penalty kill (2-for-2) for the first time in six games … John Tavares is tied for third in the NHL with 17 goals … Brad Boyes led all players with four shots on goal … Travis Hamonic had a game-high 24:24 of ice time … The Islanders controlled the faceoff battle, winning 28-of-50 (56%), and were led by Casey Cizikas (7-for-9, 78%) … Brad Boyes recorded his sixth-multi point game of the season; he now has points in three straight (two goals, three assists), and eight points (three goals, five assists) in his last six games.