On Wednesday night, the Islanders earned points in their third straight game as John Tavares shoveled in the game-winning goal at 3:23 of the overtime period for a 2-1 decision against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“We played a pretty good hockey team that competes hard, has a lot of skill and they’ve got great structure,” Tavares said. “It was a good battle by everybody. Roli (Dwayne Roloson) was great. Our penalty kill was big when we needed them to be, and it’s nice to come through.”
While it seemed like Tavares was due for a goal, the play leading up to the game-winner exemplified the passing and playmaking that characterized the game. Matt Moulson passed back to Andrew MacDonald on the blueline, who passed to James Wisniewski on the top of the faceoff circle and fired a shot at Dan Ellis. Tavares went in for the rebound, shoveling the puck past Bolts goaltender Dan Ellis.
The victory was the first time this season that the Islanders were able to earn two points after giving up the first goal of the game.
John Tavares #91 of the New York Islanders scores the winning goal in overtime against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Nassau Coliseum on December 22, 2010 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
“We’ve given up enough leads and had enough opportunities to close out games,” Tavares said. “It’s nice for us to step up, everyone, like I said. Contribute when we can and just stick to the game plan and make it happen when we need to.”
Although they were outworked in the first period, falling behind by one after giving up a power play goal, the Islanders beat the Lightning who were seeded sixth in the Eastern Conference and were on a four-game win streak entering Wednesday night’s matchup.
With the win, the Islanders have taken five out of a possible six points in their last three games. It didn’t come without a struggle. After the Bolts outshot the Islanders 16 to 3 in the first period, the Isles outshot them 25 to 19 through the remaining 43:23.
Tavares was all over the board. With 17 seconds remaining in the second period, PA Parenteau took a one-timer beating Ellis glove side to tie the score at one. After a pass from MacDonald escaped him, Tavares chased the puck past the goal line and found Parenteau waiting in the slot.
But the second period started off slow. Tavares took two back-to-back penalties at 10:10 and 12:23, which the Islanders successfully killed.
“We had a slow start,” Tavares said. “It took a while for us to get some pucks to the net. It seemed after PA’s goal (at the end of the second), we really started moving our feet early in the third, really started getting to them and challenging their defense. We started to pick it up. We got a lot of opportunities, killed a big penalty there with under ten minutes to go. It was a good all around team win.”
Much was made of the return of Josh Bailey. He possessed confidence and intensity in his first game back since being recalled from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He earned a breakaway opportunity in the second period as he came down the right side, but as he crossed over to the left, he forced Victor Hedman to take a penalty for hooking at 8:33 to stop the play.
“I felt great,” Bailey said. “I felt the way that I have the past couple weeks and tried to bring that same confidence back up here. I created some chances, didn’t the results, but when the team gets the two points, it makes you feel better.”
Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano thought Bailey was one of the team’s best players.
“That’s why he was used in certain situations on the penalty kill," Capuano said. "We talked about Josh coming back from Bridgeport, driving his legs, skating, being creative and making the plays that Josh Bailey does. He had a couple of turnovers tonight, but he did a lot of good things too and that’s the Josh Bailey that we need for the rest of the year.”
Dwayne Roloson #30 of the New York Islanders makes the save against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Nassau Coliseum on December 22, 2010 in Uniondale, New York. The Islanders defeated the Lightning 2-1 in overtime. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
But at the end of the first period, the Islanders were lucky to be down by just a one-goal deficit. Even though they took three penalties, the Lightning were only able to capitalize on one opportunity as Ryan Malone successfully beat Roloson to score on their first power play attempt at 11:28.
By taking six penalties throughout 60 minutes of regulation, the Isles penalty kill successfully shut down the Lightning’s power play unit, which is ranked first in the National Hockey League. Roloson also stood tall, making 34 of 35 saves on the night.
“Roli (Roloson) kept us in the game tonight,” Capuano said. “When you give a team like that, with a power play like that, six minutes in the first period, we were fortunate to come out of that period 1-0, that’s for sure. It could’ve been two or three. He gave us a chance to battle back and we did, so a lot of credit goes to Roli tonight.”
Earning five of six possible points in the last three games feels pretty good. With the win, the Islanders are now tied with their cross-town rivals, the New Jersey Devils, with 20 points and Thursday night’s matchup at the Prudential Center will decide the Atlantic Division standings.
“The last three games have been something to build on,” Tavares said. “We’ve just got to make sure we keep focused on that. We can’t get complacent at all. We’ve got to know how tough it’s been for us in the last month and a half. We’d like to move forward and get something going here.”
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