Isles beat Lightning, extend streak
Injuries have hit the Islanders hard before, and they usually haven't been able to fill the holes left by a decimated roster.
After a successful road trip took its toll, leaving the Islanders without three regulars for Tuesday night's visit from the Lightning, they worked in their call-ups seamlessly, getting good, physical work from depth guys like Tim Wallace, Micheal Haley and Dylan Reese.
Mix in another dominating game from John Tavares' line and Al Montoya in goal -- plus a tired Tampa team that dragged in from Ottawa the night before -- and the 5-1 win was the Islanders' most commanding performance to date and extended their streak to 4-0-1.
"We've played some really good teams the last five games and we're playing more together as a group," said David Ullstrom, who was the first call-up from Bridgeport two weeks ago.
Ullstrom's NHL debut was the low point of the season, a 5-0 thrashing by the Penguins in Pittsburgh in Sidney Crosby's triumphant return to the NHL. Ullstrom scored his first NHL goal last night, representing how far both the 22-year-old rookie and his team have come in seven games.
Playing without Andrew MacDonald (leg), Michael Grabner (groin) and Nino Niederreiter (concussion) and with Rick DiPietro (groin) in street clothes as well, the Islanders plugged in a few new faces and got big performances from some of their familiar faces.
Wallace, who played 24 games over three seasons with the Penguins before signing with the Islanders, had a game-high seven hits and made a great pass to Matt Martin for what turned out to be the game-winner at 18:26 of the first period.
Martin St. Louis deflected a shot past Montoya 6:55 into the first, on the Lightning's first shot on net, to counter what had been the Islanders' dominance in the opening minutes.
But the Isles' fortitude rallied them, and they scored three goals in the final 5:59 of the first, kicked off by Tavares' first goal in 13 games to tie it at 14:01.
Martin crushed North Bellmore native Matt Gilroy with a clean hit and beat Gilroy to the slot to deposit Wallace's pass behind Mathieu Garon with 1:34 left in the period. And then Milan Jurcina finished off a tic-tac-toe play with 5.3 seconds left in the first on the power play.
"We don't get down, no matter what," said Montoya, who stopped the next 23 shots after the first goal. "I don't think I faced an odd-man rush all night. Hats off to our guys."
Ullstrom's goal, on a pretty drop pass from a rejuvenated Josh Bailey, helped seal the game at 3:19 of the third. Matt Moulson was denied on his first seven shots on goal before extending his goal streak to five games with a power-play score at 17:25.
Jack Capuano mixed and matched his defense pairs and some of his lines, and the style never wavered.
"We talk about focusing on the process, and I think we've been going about our business and doing that," Capuano said. "They continue to work hard, no matter what the score is."
Notes & quotes: G Evgeni Nabokov (groin) skated Tuesday morning, his second straight day on the ice after two weeks off. "I feel pretty good," he said. "I don't think you want to do anything stupid at this point." . . . Grabner didn't skate and seems unlikely to return before next week; DiPietro also didn't skate and Kevin Poulin served as Montoya's backup. The goaltender stalls are so full in the dressing room that DiPietro's nameplate was removed.