It looked like the New York Islanders would finally have one of those tough-luck nights: The kind where they relentlessly outplay the opposition, but take the loss thanks to a goalie standing on his head.
Big Andrei Vasilevskiy indeed stood on his head, but the Isles didn't quit firing away at him, and with three minutes left, everything changed in a 12-second span. The Isles went from trailing 1-0 -- Brett Connolly had broken the deadlock midway through the third -- to leading 2-1 in the blink of an eye.
John Tavares scored the equalizer on a pretty give-and-go with Kyle Okposo as the Isles buzzed and Josh Bailey screened. Anders Lee scored the winner on the very next shift as the Isles continued to push, with Lee deflecting Travis Hamonic's point shot for his seventh goal of the season. Nikolay Kulemin added an empty netter with 1:10 left on a great team effort.
The Islanders finish the night 23-10. Considering they outshot the Lightning 48-21, that only seemed fair.
- The Lightning actually appeared to get the first goal far, far earlier: During a first-period scramble, the puck went in, but it was clearly from Brian
kicking it as he fell to the ice. A quick review led to a reversal; Toronto didn't screw this one up. Naturally, Boyle acted innocent and aggrieved.
- When Tavares scored the tying goal as time dwindled, you could visibly see the weight lifted off his back. He dropped to his knees and looked to the Coliseum rafters, reminiscent of the OT goal he scored against the Capitals.
- Tavares left the game with 1:27 left, however, after he took a point shot to the side of the head, around the right ear. That was about as close to Jaroslav Halak as the Lightning got in the final three minutes.
- Seriously, the Isles kept up the pressure impressively after the tying goal and after the go-ahead goal too. It was something they did for most of the final 50 minutes of the game. They didn't let Connolly's goal break their spirit. And Halak didn't let the few chances he faced become one of those deflation moments we remember from previous seasons.
- Each of the Islanders goals was a fine, full-unit effort. The Isles had created multiple odd-man situations and opportunities down low on Vasilevskiy, but the giant rookie essentially blocked the entire lower portion of the net, stretching post-to-post in Theoretical Laboratory Mikko Koskinen Form.
- That goes for the empty-netter, too: Calvin de Haan, who wasn't credited on the goal (but should have been), intercepted a zone entry and smartly lobbed the puck to center ice. Kulemin hunted it down, and Cal Clutterbuck provided the back pressure to allow Kulemin to win a battle and turn the other way, where he raced into the Lightning zone and fired it over a diving Victor Hedman.
- That effort was so thorough, with four minutes left this was going to be a "can't complain about that one, them's the breaks" recap special from 2012-13.
- Travis Hamonic took a debatable penalty with 35 seconds left for roughing. It was the kind of call you think they make with 35 seconds left and a two-goal margin, but maybe not if it it's a one-goal difference. He certainly got away with more beastly assaults during the final minute of last night's 2-1 win in Detroit.
Okposo, on the team's puck control mentality: "As long as we keep getting pucks to the net, the goals will come."— Michael Willhoft (@MichaelWillhoft) December 21, 2014
Stamkos put it simply: "We got dominated."— Joe Smith (@TBTimes_JSmith) December 21, 2014
More Capuano: "It was about the fans, the energy in the building was fantastic. Those last 10 minutes they gave us the push that we needed."— Michael Willhoft (@MichaelWillhoft) December 21, 2014
Lee Says: Yes.
Back-to-Back Weekend Sweep
So that's two wins in two nights for an impressive back-to-back sweep, with travel. With Halak playing both games, no less -- and as the braintrust said, the way the Isles kept shots down both nights seems to have justified it.
When the Isles entered the second intermission outshooting Tampa 29-9, with the rookie goalie standing on his head, you had that fear this would be one of those games.
Instead, it ended up being one of those games. The kind of game we've seen a lot already in what feels like a magical season.