TAMPA, Fla. — In their first meeting of the season with the two-time Stanley Cup champion Lightning, the Islanders didn’t need revenge as much as a consistent 60-minute performance.
In the end, they got neither in Monday night’s 4-1 loss — their third straight regulation defeat — as they returned to Amalie Arena for the first time since losing Game 7 of the NHL semifinals, 1-0, on a shorthanded goal last June. Monday’s defeat spoiled defenseman Andy Greene’s 1,000th game and Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s 500th.
The last-place Islanders (5-5-2) have been held to five goals in their past four games and have surrendered 13 goals in their last three games.
"We’re working for those chances and they’re not going in right now," Anders Lee said. "It’s one of those stretches where that can lead to some frustration. Right now, we’ve got to find a way to stick together and eliminate some of the mistakes on the other end. When things aren’t going in easily, you’ve got to be that much better on the other side of it and give ourselves a chance in other ways."
Instead, the Islanders’ revamped lineup — partly out of necessity with Casey Cizikas out with a non-COVID-19 illness and partly because coach Barry Trotz wanted to alter his mix by getting defenseman Sebastian Aho on the power play while sitting struggling Noah Dobson — allowed a tying goal just 23 seconds after taking an early lead and went 0-for-3 with two shots on the man advantage.
The Islanders’ Semyon Varlamov, in his second start this season, made 24 saves. A rarely tested Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 25 shots for the Lightning.
The Islanders will conclude their season-opening 13-game road trip against the Panthers on Tuesday night before opening UBS Arena at Belmont Park on Saturday against the Flames.
"Adversity is something we’ve dealt with a lot. We’ve overcome it in the past," Matt Martin said. "We’ve just got to stick with it, stick with the process and wins will start coming. It’s a huge game tomorrow night to finish this road trip with a winning record."
The chippy game featured a combined 68 penalty minutes. Islanders defenseman Zdeno Chara and Pat Maroon fought off the game’s opening faceoff.
"I think there’s always going to be hostility in this game," Martin said. "You play a lot of hockey against one team, that kind of comes naturally."
The Lightning also beat the Islanders in the Eastern Conference finals in 2020.
"You never want to forget the great moments in your life and you don’t want to forget the tough ones," Trotz said. "Because the tough ones are the ones that get you to have more good ones."
The Islanders kept the game close until Brayden Point made it 3-1 off a scramble at the crease at 13:28 of the third period — Varlamov was lying on the ice without his stick — and Steven Stamkos scored on the power play at 15:30.
The Islanders took a 1-0 lead at 2:53 of the first period as Zach Parise, taking control of the puck after defenseman Victor Hedman’s turnover up ice, sprung Mathew Barzal for a breakaway backhander. But Mathieu Joseph’s unassisted goal tied the score at 1-1 at 3:16 and the Lightning took a 2-1 lead with 37.3 seconds left in the first period. Josh Bailey could not clear the puck as Lee’s offensive-zone hooking penalty expired and Anthony Cirelli swiped the puck past Varlamov from the left.
"We’re doing it a little bit to ourselves," Trotz said. "We’re squeezing the stick a little bit."