UNIONDALE, N.Y. - Looking for a spark to start the road schedule, the Tampa Bay Lightning instead fizzled out again away from home.
With one of the worst road records last season, Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher added some quick emotion by inserting B.J. Crombeen and Pierre-Cedric Labrie into the lineup for the opening faceoff. Though the opening-faceoff fisticuffs might have provided a bit of a jump start, the juice ran out during a porous second period by the Lightning, resulting in a 4-3 loss to the New York Islanders in front of an announced matinee crowd of 15,322 at Nassau Coliseum.
It marks the fourth consecutive road loss to the Islanders, who have outscored Tampa Bay 16-6 in those contests.
Anders Lindback, making his second consecutive start, did his best to keep the Lightning in the game, stopping 40 shots, and his heroics nearly worked as Tampa Bay tried to rally from a 4-0 deficit in the third period with goals by Marty St. Louis, Steven Stamkos and Benoit Pouliot in a span of six minutes.
But breakdowns in the second period proved the be the difference as the Islanders had a handful of odd-man chances, cashing in on three of them, to break open what was a scoreless game after the first period.
“We were trying to open up the game, we were trying to get the goal and being impatient,’’ Boucher said of the second period. “All we had to do was stay patient and stick to what we were doing, but be a lot more aggressive in terms of shooting the puck from everywhere instead of trying to skill it up through the neutral zone, or at their blue line or at their slot. We were just trying to find guys when there was no space there. We were just stubborn and stubborn, we weren’t getting the scoring chances that guys were expecting, and then it frustrated (them).
“Impatience, that’s what it is.’’
The breakdown actually started on an Islanders power play, when defenseman Mark Streit connected on a home-run pass from deep in his zone to Michael Grabner at the far blue line. Grabner had a half-step on Lightning defenseman Eric Brewer, who tried to corral Grabner, but the Islanders forward was able to wriggle his arms free enough to pull the puck from his backhand to his forehand and poke the puck past Lindback.
Then Matt Martin finished off a breakaway coming out of the penalty box after John Tavares took the puck away from St. Louis along the wall while Kyle Okposo converted a 2-on-1 break with a short-side wrist shot to make it 3-0 heading into the second intermission.
“You can’t win in this league when you have to ask your goalie to make save after save on 3-on-2s and 2-on-1s and breakaways,’’ Stamkos said. “They had three or four breakaways tonight, and that’s unacceptable in this league, and you can’t put yourself behind the 8 ball and expect to win every game.’’
David Ullstrom finished off a solid give-and-go play with Keith Aucoin 1:31 into the third period and the rout appeared to be on.
But St. Louis found a loose puck above the crease for his third goal in two games to answer Ullstrom’s goal at 2:22. Pouliot poked in a loose puck in the crease at 7:26, while Stamkos slammed in a cross-ice pass from Cory Conacher 34 seconds later to cut the deficit to one goal with 12 minutes left.
Though Tampa Bay showed again it has the character to make third-period comebacks, this one fell short.
“We know we are a team that is never going to quit, but there are a lot of cases of too little, too late and tonight was one of them,’’ Stamkos said.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay Lightning drop first road game to Isles, 4-3
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