TAMPA — During an early third-period penalty kill, Tyler Johnson epitomized the Lightning effort on Thursday against the Islanders as the rookie center forced himself to the ice after his skate blade was knocked out of his left skate while blocking a shot.
It didn’t look comfortable, but somehow the rookie managed to get back to the ice.
Tampa Bay didn’t paint a pretty picture in facing one of the bottom teams in the Eastern Conference but after a 13-round shootout, managed to come away with a 3-2 victory against New York in front of an announced crowd of 18,554 at The Forum. The Lightning won for the fifth time this season in 23 games when trailing entering the third period, which ranks tied for 10th most in the league.
Sami Salo converted the shootout winner, the fifth Tampa Bay player to score in the shootout to secure the second point for the Lightning, which has points in 10 consecutive games (6-0-4) and remains two points behind Montreal for the second seed in the Atlantic Division with two games in hand.
Ryan Callahan scored both goals in regulation for Tampa Bay while Ben Bishop finished with 25 saves as Tampa Bay (40-24-9) reduced its magic number to clinch a playoff spot to 10 points with nine games remaining.
“That’s pretty big (to win) but I don’t think it’s the kind of game we wanted to play,’’ said Callahan, who has four goals since being acquired from the New York Rangers. “But we showed some character in the third period coming back, and then we will one out in the shootout. So that’s a big two points for us, especially this time of the year.’’
Tampa Bay snapped a string of four consecutive overtime or shootout losses and then converted five of the 13 shootout attempts after going without a conversion in the previous three shootout deciding games. By the time it came around to Salo, after the Islanders on three separate occasions kept the shootout going after Tampa Bay scored, he said he figured he better start lacing up his skates again in case he was tapped on the shoulder to take his third career shootout attempt, second this season, before coming down with speed, deking a forehand shot before pulling the puck back to his backhand and beating Evgeni Nabokov.
“I was going in there to take a shoot or make a move, and it just happened to go in there,’’ Salo said. “I had a couple of choices, and sometimes the goalie makes the save and sometimes they go in, so it was obviously good for us to get the win.’’
After a scoreless first period, Callahan deflected a Radko Gudas shot 29 seconds into the second period to give Tampa Bay the lead. But the Islanders answered 64 seconds later on a Ryan Strome goal at 1:33 and then had Tampa Bay on hits heels in the defensive zone before Matt Donovan cut down the slot to one-time a Frans Nielsen pass to take the lead at 9:17 and put the Lightning behind entering the third period.
“We score right away and have a good vibe, then they answer right away and probably popped our balloon a little bit,’’ Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “Then it’s just a clear breakdown on the second one and that’s a product of us just being out to lunch a little bit.’’
Tampa Bay had to kill off 68 seconds of an Islanders 5-on-3 power play early in the third and built some momentum before Callahan tied it after protecting the puck high in the zone and then charging the net immediately after passing to Eric Brewer to pounce on a rebound to tie the game at 5:50 of the third.
“I thought we didn’t have our best game but I thought we were pretty resilient there and we really willed a way to win,’’ Bishop said. “Two points are two points right now; they are not all going to be pretty.’’