TAMPA, Fla. – It doesn’t take much to turn an otherwise detailed performance into a loss. For the Islanders, a sluggish 10-minute stretch to start the second period, an unproductive power play and a blown assignment on the decisive goal outweighed the positives.
“We know we can play with anyone,” Islanders center Mathew Barzal said. “We know we can beat anyone. It’s just unfortunate we didn’t get any points tonight.”
The Metropolitan Division-leading Islanders had their seven-game point streak snapped in a 4-2 loss to the Atlantic Division-leading Lightning on Thursday night at Amalie Arena.
Tyler Johnson scored the winner at 18:34 of the third period despite Islanders center Brock Nelson winning a defensive zone faceoff. But Nelson turned up ice before the puck left the Islanders’ zone and Nikita Kucherov found Johnson open for the redirection at the left post.
“We played real well,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “I liked most of our game other than the first 10 minutes of the second period. It’s frustrating because there was a missed assignment on the last faceoff. We were leaving the zone rather than making sure the puck got out.”
“It’s disappointing to lose anytime, especially like that,” said right wing Josh Bailey, who gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead at 3:40 of th first period by outmuscling defenseman Anton Stralman in the low slot and then tied the game at 2 at 8:43 of the third period off defenseman Adam Pelech’s feed to the crease. “In the big picture, I thought we played pretty well.”
Robin Lehner made 23 saves for the Islanders (8-5-2) while Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 35 shots for the Lightning (12-3-1), who have won four straight.
Lehner made his first start since exiting a 6-3 win at Pittsburgh on Oct. 30 after two periods because of back spasms.
“It was a tough ending,” Lehner said. “I think we fought hard to come back. It just stinks. We should’ve had at least one point tonight.”
The Islanders, 0 for 5 on the power play, could not score the equalizer as they started the third period with a five-on-three power play for 48 seconds. They did not get a shot on Vasilevskiy during the two-man advantage – Ryan Callahan did block defenseman Ryan Pulock’s blast – then only got two shots on net during the remaining five-on-four play despite pinning the tiring Lightning in their zone.
A subsequent power play at 3:32 after Johnson was called for high sticking Valtteri Filppula yielded two shots but no goal.
“I thought we had plenty of opportunities,” Bailey said. “We’ve got to find a way to score. I thought we had some looks.”
The Islanders, who had outshot their opponent only two times previously this season, dominated the sluggish Lightning in the first period with a 16-7 edge in shots and a 24-11 advantage in total chances.
The Lightning regrouped, though, and had the Islanders skating backwards too often in the second period. Mathieu Joseph tied it at 1 at the 5:58 mark, collecting the puck in the neutral zone, skating up the left wing and beating Lehner to the short side as he shot through defenseman Scott Mayfield’s legs in the left circle.
J.T. Miller’s one-timer from the right circle gave the Lightning a 2-1 lead at 11:12 of the second period.