A quick power play goal to start the game set the tone in a dominant New York Islanders win against the extremely talented Tampa Bay Lightning. After some disappointing efforts against the New York Rangers, it seemed like this game would be one to forget against the best team in the league thus far. However, there’s a reason they play the games, and much of the goal scoring tonight unexpectedly came from The Best Fourth Line in Hockey, with all three linemates factoring on the scoresheet. Three first period goals from Brock Nelson, Cal Clutterbuck, and Devon Toews gave the Islanders a lead that they never gave up, and Casey Cizikas added to that in the second period before Josh Bailey’s third period empty netter to seal the win.
20 seconds into the game, Matt Martin drew a high sticking penalty on Eric Cernak, putting the Islanders on the power play. Brock Nelson got a wrist shot off after getting the puck from Jordan Eberle, and his first (!!) power play goal of the season gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead.
Three minutes later, Casey Cizikas beat Braydon Coburn to the puck and got it to Matt Martin, who passed it across the crease to Cal Clutterbuck, who extended the Isles’ lead to two.
Just 16 seconds later, Devon Toews scored his third NHL goal in 10 games with a bomb from the blue line. Michael Dal Colle was able to protect the puck, allowing it to slide up to Toews who made no mistake.
Valtteri Filppula then took an offensive zone tripping penalty which put the dangerous Lightning onto the power play, but the Islanders get the kill. The Lightning’s only shot in the first 10 minutes of the game came on that power play.
Mathew Barzal had a breakaway opportunity, but tried to out-deke Andrei Vasilvesky and ended up running out of room. On a two on one the other way, Thomas Greiss made a big save on Mathieu Joseph.
The period came to a close after an abbreviated Tampa Bay power play off a Cizikas hooking minor.
The Islanders opened the second on the penalty kill, and Greiss made a few good saves to keep the three goal lead. Anthony Beauvillier had a good opportunity while falling down with Anton Stralman at his back, though Vasilevsky made the save. Victor Hedman collided with the linesman and appeared to hit his head, and left the game from the bench a few minutes later and did not return. Greiss was under siege this period, making great saves on Tampa’s star-studded roster.
A good defensive play by Casey Cizikas created an offensive opportunity, where Cizikas drove behind the net and wrapped it around to Johnny Boychuk at the blue line. Boychuk took a shot that Vasilevsky saved, but Matt Martin was able to get the rebound and pass it off to Cizikas, who scored, extending the lead to 4-0.
Cizikas then took a delay of game penalty after the puck hit the robo-cam positioned just out of play over the glass. Greiss was active in that penalty kill, but maintained the 4-0 lead. Soon after, a weak Ryan McDonagh shot would take a slight bounce off Greiss’ stick, allowing it to sneak through the five hole and putting the Lightning back within three to close out the period.
This period was basically all Lightning, with Greiss coming up big to ensure the Islanders’ lead remained. The most notable moment was when, with just under 10 minutes remaining, Tampa coach Jon Cooper pulled Vasilevsky for a 6 on 5 opportunity after the Barzal line iced the puck. The strategy was pretty cool, and featured an on the fly change with Vasilevsky and his teammates to go back in net. With just under five minutes remaining, the Bolts pulled the goalie again, and Greiss had to be sharp as the Isles were hemmed into their own end. It was Josh Bailey who capped off the win with an empty net goal, bringing the final score to a 5-1 victory.
- Mat Barzal picked up another point on Nelson’s power play tally, bringing him up to 42 points in 44 games, continuing his recent hot streak.
- Brock Nelson has done most of his scoring at even strength, but he picked a good time to get his first power play goal of the season.
- Let’s talk about Devon Toews’ goal. His goal tonight was his third of the season, tying him with fellow defensemen Ryan Pulock, Scott Mayfield, Johnny Boychuk, and Adam Pelech in just 10 games. He’s been a huge presence for the Islanders since coming up from Bridgeport, and I can’t imagine that he’ll be sent down.
- Thomas Greiss was at his best tonight, making 38 saves, including some key ones that ensured the score margin was as big as it was. The goaltending from both Greiss and Lehner has been well above expectations this season, and that’ll be important going forward, too.
- Jon Cooper’s decision to pull Vasilevsky with around 10 minutes left was really cool, and a strategy you hope the copycat NHL picks up more often. With his team down 4-1, might as well take advantage of tired players after an icing and try and score on a 6 on 5.
- Victor Hedman left the game with an upper body injury, but it looked like he hit his head when he collided with one of the linesmen. Hopefully that injury isn’t too serious.
Next, the Islanders take on the St. Louis Blues at the Barclays Center on Tuesday. Last time these two met, the Islanders took home a 4-3 win, the last of their eight-game win streak. The Isles are now sitting in the top wild card spot, and a win against the Blues could help give some much needed separation from the other Eastern Conference teams competing for a playoff spot.