The Islanders were in line for two points, but skated away with one after a heartbreaking 3-2 shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night at Nassau Coliseum.
The Islanders outplayed the Lightning for 57 minutes, but Valterri Filppula scored two goals in the final three minutes, stunning the Islanders. Filppula’s second came with 3.8 seconds left in regulation, setting up a shootout, where Nikita Kucerov scored the game-decider.
“When you play the right way for 57 minutes and you don’t get the result, it’s frustrating, especially the way that happened tonight,” Kyle Okposo said.
The tying goal came in a mad scramble in front of the Islanders net with time ticking away on the clock. Evgeni Nabokov and four Islanders dropped down in the Islanders crease, in an attempt to cover the puck and end the game. Instead, the puck squirted onto the stick of Filppula, who chipped in the crushing backhand.
“We had two chances on the last goal to get it out,” head coach Jack Capuano said. “They won the battle in front of the net. They had the will. You have to be strong in front of your goalie, battle and do whatever it takes in that area.”
The unfortunate end soured what was otherwise a very solid performance from the Islanders, who carried the play at both ends of the ice. Okposo and Frans Nielsen scored, as both the power play and second line generated numerous quality scoring chances.
Nielsen’s 11th came on a 2-on-1 feed from Michael Grabner in the third period, the pairs second odd-man rush of the game. Linemate Josh Bailey, who picked up a secondary assist on Nielsen’s goal, had two first-period breakaways.
“We were going,” Capuano said. “We could have been up by three.”
Okposo’s goal came early in the second period, as the top power-play unit blitzed the Lightning off the opening draw, scoring 11 seconds into the middle frame. Okposo ripped a point shot past a screened Ben Bishop to put the Islanders up 1-0.
Defensively, the Islanders blocked 27 shots, and had 21 takeaways to the Lightning’s seven. The Islanders also outhit the Lightning 21-7.
“We were sound defensively,” Okposo said. “Our defensive game was tight and we didn’t give them anything [for 57 minutes]. They still didn’t have much after that, the puck was just bouncing around and landed on their stick.”
Evgeni Nabokov looked sharp in his second game back from a groin injury, stopping 34-of-36 shots in regulation. Nabokov had little chance on the Lightning’s first goal, a giveaway at the dot, which Filppula sent to the top corner. Ben Bishop made 32 saves in the win, and stopped Thomas Vanek and John Tavares in the shootout.
The Islanders retake the ice Friday, as they take on the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Puck drop is at 7 p.m.
Notes: The Islanders have points in three of their last four games and in each of their last four home games... The Islanders won 34-of-59 draws (58%)… Ryan Strome won 8-of-10 faceoffs, had four takeaways and one shot… Andrew MacDonald led all skaters with 26:51 TOI… John Tavares had six shots and one assist.