Islanders fail to fire, fall to Lightning
TAMPA, Fla. -- John Tavares and his line have buried enough of their scoring chances to mask the fact that the rest of the Islanders haven't contributed much offensively so far.
Thursday night, with a charged-up Lightning team facing them, the Islanders had a few good chances to put their hosts on their heels. But that didn't happen, and the rest of the night was a hard slog, with some bad giveaways and spotty defensive-zone play.
Kyle Okposo missed a golden scoring chance less than two minutes into the game and the Islanders mustered only 17 shots in a 4-1 loss to the Lightning.
"Absolutely," Okposo said when asked if the game would have gone differently had he been able to beat Mathieu Garon after a clearing pass caromed right to him alone in the slot. "I've got to put that in the net."
Grabner beat Garon on the rush 7:55 into the third to cut it to a 3-1 deficit, but the Islanders had been burned by too many gambles to recover.
"We didn't execute our forecheck and we didn't get to the net," Jack Capuano said. "Overall, they played better than we did."
The Okposo-Grabner-Nielsen line at times was the Isles' top line last season, but there's been a gulf between Tavares' line, with Matt Moulson and P.A. Parenteau, and the Nielsen line so far. Okposo had a team-high four shots on goal Thursday night, but that trio was out of sync again.
"Last year it felt like we had two or three odd-man rushes a game. I can remember one, maybe, this year," Okposo said. "We've got to figure it out."
"It can't just be Johnny's line every night," Nielsen said. "It feels like sometimes with us, we've got one guy working hard and two guys watching [on the forecheck]. We have to work together."
Al Montoya was decent in goal, not as good as he'd been, but he needed some offense. It came too late as the Islanders have sandwiched three solid wins with a pair of ugly performances so far this season.
After Okposo missed his chance early, the Lightning got pucks deep and caused havoc in front of and around Montoya, leading to a couple of power plays. Ryan Malone converted the second of those with 3:28 left in the first to make it 1-0.
The Islanders ended their shot drought 12:18 into the second, but a turnover and some lax defense allowed Vinny Lecavalier to wrist one behind Montoya (26 saves) with 4:46 to go in the second.
"They beat us at our own game a bit," Mark Eaton said. "They got pucks deep, they got on our D and they got shots on net. We know if we're not at our best, that's the result we're going to get."