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Islanders 5, Lightning 2 (EN): Eight straight

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The Islanders continue to roll this season.

Tampa Bay Lightning v New York Islanders
I love this team.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Islanders were coming off another four-day break, while the Lightning suited up for their third game in four nights in the NYC Metropolitan Area.

The Islanders, of course, also had a seven-game winning streak in their back pocket. They would add to that before the night was up.

[NHL GC | Corsica | Natural Stat Trick | HockeyViz]

First Period: Evenly Matched and Scoreless

I wasn’t able to catch all of the first period because the MSG Go app is less than perfect, to put it nicely, but the Islanders started off pretty well. Neither team dominated, and both teams had a couple of decent chances.

The shots, shots-on goal, and chances were almost dead even after one. Not going to get a more solid period than that against a team like Tampa Bay without a goal.

Second Period: Trading Goals

Mathew Barzal did what he does sometimes, and that’s take over an entire shift. He carried into and entered the zone with his teammates and cut toward the net for a shot. He gathered his own rebound and glided around the offensive zone for another shot that Andrei Vasilevskiy initially had before it squirted through him and just barely crossed the goal line.

The 1-0 lead was short-lived. Only a couple minutes later, Yanni Gourde cruised down the wing with a few other mates and a seemingly harmless backhand off his stick snuck inside the short side of Thomas Greiss. Wasn’t a great one to give up, but it happens.

And it mattered not anyway, because the Isles got the lead back for good later in the second. The Brassard-Nelson-Beauvillier line got buzzing again and Ryan Pulock sent a blast from the blue line that Vasilevskiy probably never saw. The seeing-eye shot put them up 2-1.

Third Period: The Lightning push, the Isles score

The Lightning are still the Lightning, even if they haven’t totally looked the part in the early going. They can still turn on the offensive firepower and in the beginning of the third, they were flying. Up only a goal, Greiss stayed strong and kept the puck out of the net until the Islanders could get some insurance.

It came in the form of a turnover in the Tampa zone that Anders Lee deftly poked across ice to the joining Barzal. Barzal touched it right on back to the spot Lee was in, now occupied by Josh Bailey. Bailey hammered it home for yet another goal.

Less than two minutes later, Lee got one of his own for some real breathing room. Johnny Boychuk fired a blast off the backboards, as he is wont to do, and Lee was in his office. He jumped behind the goal line to grab Boychuk’s rebound and flicked a backhand from behind the net off the back of Vasilevskiy. Now down 4-1 with under five minutes to play, Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper challenged that there should have been a stoppage in play, presumably for a high-stick, in a last-ditch attempt to keep the deficit at two. No such luck, and the Lightning ended up on the kill for the failed challenge.

Once the kill ended, Vasilevskiy jumped on the bench so the high-powered offense could get some reinforcements. Former Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh got a goal that he ripped from the blue line and the game was 4-2 with just under two minutes remaining.

Tampa pulled the goalie again, but this time, Derick Brassard made sure the Islanders would end the game up three.

Numbers and Graphics

This was Islanders hockey at its finest, in the mind of Barry Trotz:

Thoughts

  • Barzal continues to score goals, a welcome change for the 2019-20 season. His ability to take over a game when he sees fit has been on full display in this first month of the season.
  • Tonight was only an empty-netter, but Brassard has goals in four straight games. He also had an assist on the Pulock goal. Moving him from 3C to 2LW with Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier has been nothing short of brilliant.
  • Speaking of Pulock, he and Adam Pelech have been excellent against top competition this season. Very impressive pair.
  • Boychuk has been a man possessed, at least to the best of his capabilities, since his series of scratches. His assist on the Lee goal gave him assists in four straight games and has, I believe, seven points during the streak.
  • The goaltending continues to be strong this season. Tonight, it was Greiss, and in keeping with the perfect rotation Barry Trotz has been rolling out, tomorrow night will almost certainly be Semyon Varlamov.
  • “Eight straight! Eight straight! Eight straight!” was the chant from the crowd as time wound down. This is wild.

Up Next

No rest for the weary as the Islanders, for the second week in a row, come off a four-day layoff with a traveling back-to-back. They’re in Buffalo to take on the Sabres tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m., going for their ninth (9th!) straight win.

Fun and ironic: tonight was Tampa Bay’s last game before they depart for Sweden to take on the Sabres, and tomorrow night will be Buffalo’s last game before they ship off to Stockholm. Both teams’ last taste of North America, before they hit Europe, will have been the Islanders.