Richard Park's late third period goal was just enough for the Islanders as they came out victorious by the score of 5-4 over the Tampa Bay Lightning in a Saturday afternoon matinee at the Nassau Coliseum.
With the game even at four goals apiece, Richard Park would give the Islanders a 5-4 lead with 2:22 remaining in the third period. Doug Weight fed a streaking Park, who initially attempted a wraparound shot on Tampa Bay goaltender Antero Niittymaki. He made the first save with an outstretched right pad, but Park got the rebound and stopped short. With Niittymaki still sprawled on the ice, Park lifted a shot that looked to sneak in just under the crossbar.
As Park, Weight, and the crowd celebrate, Referee Kerry Fraser made no signal whether it was a goal or not. The play would be sent to a formal video review, where upon further review it was determined that Park’s shot snuck in under the left corner where the crossbar and post meet.
Park has had many goals taken away from him this year, but he was fairly confident this one was going to count.
"I thought it was in. But you just never know, it happens so fast," Park said. "It's like every penalty, it's a bad penalty. You think every questionable goal is a goal. It's just the way it is."
The goal would eventually ice the victory for the Islanders, who have now taken two out of their last three games.
"Confidence is a big thing, but it only gets you so far in terms of getting the result," Park said after the game. "Offense is something that doesn't come easy in this league. We're identifying what we need to do in order to be successful and just have the opportunity to be successful. It was a big win for our team."
The game started off on the wrong foot for the Islanders, as they got into penalty trouble early and saw themselves down two men less than two minutes into the opening period. However, the penalty-killing trio of Park, Andrew MacDonald and Andy Sutton weathered a Tampa Bay storm for 1:16, allowing only three shots on goal and keeping the Lightning off the scoreboard.
"Games that have a lot of penalties in them; you never really know what kind of momentum and flow is going to be dictated," Park said. "I think we really stuck with it. I think our special teams was really good. We capitalized on some opportunities."
For Islanders goaltender Martin Biron, who has had two NHL starts since December 27, the opening penalty kill was a major confidence booster.
"It gave myself confidence, it gave the guys confidence," Biron said. "We killed a lot of penalties tonight against a team with a great power play."
Blake Comeau got the Islanders on the scoreboard first 7:31 into the opening period. Comeau's hard work paid off, as he initially stripped the puck from a Lightning defenseman deep in the Tampa Bay zone. As Rob Schremp came away with the puck, Comeau broke for the net and received a saucer pass from his linemate.
With three white jerseys behind him, Comeau cut across the front of the crease and out-waited Niittymaki, and fired a shot over the fallen goaltender's shoulder for a 1-0 Islanders lead.
Three minutes later, Steven Stamkos would even the game up for the Lightning with his 34th goal of the season. After winning a key offensive zone faceoff, Stamkos drew the puck back to defenseman Kurtis Foster. Foster dished the puck off to Martin St. Louis, who then caught Stamkos cutting to the front of the net, who cut in front of Biron and backhanded across the goal line to tie it up, 1-1.
Newest Islander Matt Martin continued to make his presence felt on the ice with 5:45 left in the opening period. Martin took exception to a hard body check Mattias Ohlund threw on John Tavares. Martin tried to engage Ohlund in dropping the gloves, but settled for former Islander Nate Thompson. Both men exchanged punches for well over a minute along the center ice logo before the linesmen stepped in to break up the pugilists.
Both men earned five minutes for the fight, however Martin received an extra ten minute misconduct.
However just 14 seconds later, Mike Lundin would give Tampa Bay their first lead of the game, and it came off another face off win deep in the Islanders zone. Stamkos drew the draw back to Lundin, who fired a wrist shot through a maze of bodies past Biron for his second goal of the season and a Tampa Bay 2-1 lead.
Doug Weight evened the up for the Islanders 4:26 into the second period with his first goal of the season. Kyle Okposo made the play happen as he held a Tampa Bay clearing attempt at the blue line. Okposo then dished the puck off to a streaking Weight, who fired a wrist shot past Niittymaki’s blocker side to tie the score at 2-2.
It’s been a long time coming for the Islanders captain. It was his first goal since April 12, 2009.
"That second goal really got us going," Biron said. "It gave us a burst of energy, knowing that we're going to score goals today. That was great for him."
Thompson would find the back of the net with his second goal of the season to give the Lightning a 3-2 lead. Thompson cut to the front of the net as Alex Tanguay circled Biron. Tanguay caught eye of Thompson's position and fed a hard pass in his direction. All Thompson had to do was redirect the puck past a sliding Biron to give Tampa Bay the lead.
Okposo tied the game up at three goals apiece with 3:48 left in the second period with his 13th goal of the season. John Tavares cut deep into the Tampa Bay zone behind the goal line. As Tavares was being knocked down to the ice, he fed a centering pass in front of the net, where saw a few blue jerseys surround Niittymaki. Fortunately for Tavares, Okposo was one of those blue jerseys, who one-timed the pass behind the Tampa netminder to even things up 3-3.
Exactly one minute later, the Islanders retook its lead on Park’s first of two goals on the afternoon. The play started as Biron looked a little like Rick DiPietro, feeding a long pass over to the vicinity of Park and Comeau. Park dished the puck off to Comeau, who fired a hard slapshot on Niitymaki. The Tampa Bay goaltender made the initial save, but Park capitalized and pounded home the rebound for the 4-3 Islanders lead.
Tampa Bay, however would answer quickly in the third period.
Steve Downie tied it up for Tampa Bay 2:57 into the third period with his 14th goal of the season. The play emerged as Ohlund, who cut down below the Islanders goal line, fed a centering pass to Downie. Downie, who was waiting all alone in front of Biron, one-timed Ohlund’s pass through the legs of the Islanders netminder to even up the score at 4-4.
Biron and the Islanders would stand tall following Park's go-ahead goal, stopping four more shots Tampa Bay shots that came with an extra attacker for the victory
Three Stars of the Game:
1. Richard Park, NYI: Two goals, including game winner.
2. Blake Comeau, NYI: Goal, assist, +2
3. Steven Stamkos, TBL: Goal, assist
Honorarable Mention: Doug Weight, NYI - Captain scores first goal of season, adds assist.
Slapshots: Tampa Bay outshot the Islanders, 42-33...Andrew MacDonald led all Islanders in ice time with 25:52...Tampa Bay was 0-5 on the power play, while the Islanders were unsuccessful on four opportunities...This was the fourth and final meeting of the season between the two teams; Tampa Bay won all three previous contests...Islanders now have an all-time record of 32-32-7 against the Lightning.
1 - 0 NYI
Martin St. Louis
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 TBL
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 TBL
3 - 3 Tie
4 - 3 NYI
Martin St. Louis
4 - 4 Tie
5 - 4 NYI