A power play goal and two shorthanded goals, one on an empty net, pushed the Islanders to a 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night at St. Pete Times Forum.
“It was big for us,” forward Kyle Okposo said. “We got, what I thought, was a pretty decisive victory. We got a 4-1 lead and then we got on the penalty kill quite a bit there; our PK did a great job in the third period. That was a big win for our club.”
After taking a 3-1 lead in the second period on goals from Okposo and Matt Martin, the Islanders came out in the third with something extra in their step. But the Islanders took seven penalties in the third, and really relied on the penalty kill and goaltender Al Montoya, who made 17 of his 36 saves in the period.
“He was big tonight,” Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano said. “He made a couple of big big saves to keep us in the game. Any time you’re getting good goaltending you have a chance to win hockey game. He’s your best penalty killing guy, so you can’t overlook that. I mean, he made some big saves on the power play.”
Frans Nielsen #51 of the New York Islanders celebrates a third period goal with teammate Andrew MacDonald #47 against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum on March 22, 2011 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)
But when a team like the Islanders goes up against a power play unit like the Lightning, which is largely made up of forwards, the Bolts were bound to get burned.
Frans Nielsen and Michael Grabner continue to prove they’re an unstoppable penalty killing duo. Each player recorded a shortie, propelling the Islanders to the league lead of 13 shorthanded goals this season. Nielsen’s league leading sixth shorthanded goal of the season lifted the Islanders ahead 4-1 at 8:08.
“This is one of the best power plays in the league, so to come in here and do what we did tonight against a great hockey team, we played a great game,” goaltender Al Montoya said.
Montoya added, “They were getting power play after power play after power play. We were doing a great job killing. The penalty killers did a great job all night and we fed off that momentum. If you shut down one of the best power plays in the league, it does give you that momentum.”
Even though the Lightning had seven opportunities in the third period, Montoya stood tall in his crease and only let up one power play goal. Dominic Moore scored at 10:31.
Grabner’s shorthanded goal came in the final 46 seconds of regulation, when the Islanders once again found themselves on the penalty kill. The Lightning pulled Roloson for a two-man advantage, but Grabner was able to take the puck to score an empty net goal, lifting the Islanders to a 5-2 win.
The momentum wasn’t always in the Islanders favor. Former Islanders player, Nate Thompson, put the Lightning on the scoreboard at 1:01 of the first period.
“I didn’t like that first goal that went in,” Montoya said. “It’s a tough break. I mean we could have shelled up right away, but they fought for me. They battled, they didn’t let that (first goal) knock them down and that just motivated me and made me want to play harder.”
Before the end of the period, Josh Bailey collected a rebound off of a Milan Jurcina shot from the point to score a power play goal at 10:22, tying the score at one.
Radek Martinek #24 of the New York Islanders blocks a shot with his skate in front of Sean Bergenheim #10 of the Tampa Bay Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum on March 22, 2011 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)
Jurcina then got his second point of the night when he fired a rocket from the same spot on the blue line. The puck found Okposo in the crease for a deflection right over Roloson’s pads, bringing the Islanders ahead 2-1 at 5:16 of the second.
The team’s success with Jurcina in the lineup has been a positive statistic all year. Thus, it was no surprise when Okposo said, “He means a lot. He’s a huge body back there. He blocks shots. He does the little things right. He’s so solid defensively. Not to mention, he’s got an absolute cannon of a shot. So when he’s in the lineup, we’re definitely better off for it.”
Matt Martin scored the Islanders third goal of the contest at 13:39 as defenseman Jack Hillen joined the rush and passed to Martin in the slot. Martin then backhanded the puck into the net for a 3-1 lead.
With five different goal scorers, the Islanders victory was a team effort.
Nielsen said, “We go out and compete hard for 60 minutes every night and try to have fun. Everybody is chipping in on the team right now. It’s unreal. You look at a guy like Johnny (Tavares) and what he does out there. He doesn’t even think about scoring. He just competes. He does so much for the team. It gets everybody going when a guy like that competes that hard. So it was definitely a team effort out there tonight.”