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New York Islanders 5, Tampa Bay Lightning 2: Isles fast, sharp in Nabokov's return

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Another full 60 minutes on what has truly felt like home ice advantage this season.

"It's mah birthday..."
"It's mah birthday..."
Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

As it turned out, the New York Islanders returned the favor.

After losing in Tampa over the weekend on the second game of a back-to-back, the Islanders defeated the Lightning on the second half of their New York swing by the same 5-2 score.

The sequences of the two games even played out in similar fashion, the road team getting the first goal before the home team steadily took over and put the game away with a string of unanswered goals.

Just as the Isles played their backup down in Florida, the Lightning offered the Isles the bittersweet pleasure of victimizing their old goalie and current Lightning backup Evgeni Nabokov. Though, in all honesty, Nabby really didn't have a chance on several goals.

[ Box | Game Sum | Event Sum | Fancy/Shifts: War-on-Ice - Natural Stat Trick - | Recaps: | Isles | NHL Newsday | The Skinny]

After Alex Killorn opened scoring with a second rebound that took a fortunate bounce off Jaroslav Halak's pad, Cal Clutterbuck -- who wasn't in the lineup last game -- equalized with a shorthanded goal early in the second period. It was a great takeaway by Clutterbuck, followed by his familiar pick-a-corner shot on the rush. He's very good in that situation, and he nailed the opening above Nabokov's glove-side shoulder.

It was tied at 1-1 for 12 minutes before the Isles reeled off two goals after sustained pressure in the Lightning zone. Frans Nielsen faked a shot from the slot and then fed Mikhail Grabovski for an open-net chance that still required a quick release. Then Ryan Strome was alone in the slot and his shot ramped off a Lightning defender's stick and up high past Nabokov.

Early in the third came another deflection goal, the Islanders working the power play well to get Lubomir Visnovsky an open shot from high in the slot. It hit a leg in front, either Brock Nelson's (not currently credited) or the leg of the defenseman he was battling in front. [UPDATE: After the game, scoring credit was changed to Nelson. That leg is a top Isles scorer this year.]

Ondrej Palat got one back a couple of minutes later, but it was academic. Casey Cizikas finished scoring on a brilliant breakaway move, deking and then lofting the puck -- yes, over Nabokov's shoulder. I could watch that subtle move again and again (and will), but it should obscure the smooth precision of Kyle Okposo's "through ball" pass that sent Cizikas on his way. (And to be clear, Cizikas had to bust his tale the entire way to stay ahead of the Lightning D.)

Game Highlights

  • The Isles outshot the Lightning in every period and did what they needed to do, working relentlessly against a fast opponent playing the second night in a row.
  • Good special teams helped. After the Lightning scored the first goal, they soon had a power play that could have hurt the Isles. It came off an in comprehensible goalie interference call on Matt Martin by Dennis "No Clue" LaRue.
  • The refs probably made up a few calls in return, as the Isles had more opportunities and several calls overall were head scratchers. Though they passed too much on the early power plays, they eventually found their seams.
  • Also helping the puck movement: The Isles won 31 of 52 faceoffs, or 60 percent. Not bad at all.
  • The Lightning are still so dangerous. They cycle well down low and up high in the zone, a few times really keeping the Isles hemmed in. But the Isles were disciplined positionally and, up two goals for much of that time, never let the sustained zone time cause panic.
They Said It

As Clutterbuck nods...big series with Pittsburgh is next. That'll be for the top spot in the division. The week before Thanksgiving. Is this real November?