The New York Islanders returned from a nine-day break against the very not-rusty Eastern Conference leading Tampa Bay Lightning and managed to continue their seven-game points streak yet suffer their second consecutive shootout loss.
For a game that was scoreless through 65 minutes, you might think it was a sloggy, dreary trap-fest initiated by Barry Trotz’s troops. But actually it was both a well-played and fairly eventful contest, with both Thomas Greiss and Andrei Vasilevskiy required to turn in some outstanding work to keep both teams off the board.
Greiss stopped 41 Lightning shots while Vasilevskiy stopped 36 by the home team; no skater was credited with a goal, since the margin for the bonus standings point was a Victor Hedman shootout conversion — the only puck to get over the line behind either goalie.
The Islanders became the first team this season to shut out the Lightning through regulation.
One early observation: the Lightning are trying (and succeeding) on a lot of royal road passes between the circles early on.— Carey Haber (@habermetrics) February 2, 2019
In addition to Greiss, Islanders players of note included Nick Leddy, who logged 25 minutes and was in top form on both sides of the puck, and Michael Dal Colle, who appeared to have found another gear tonight.
Before the break I mentioned Dal Colle looked like he may break out. His skating looked even better tonight. Three or four times he stripped the puck-- one if which nearly led to a goal.— Travis Flynn (@NDRedEagle) February 2, 2019
That's been the "weak line" most of the season, but Filppula is very capable at C3/C4.
Power Play Slump
The Lightning lost a power play late in the first period, with the Isles halfway through a decent kill — praise be to Greiss — when a lengthy scrum erupted in front of the Isles bench after Nikita Kucherov tripped [update: Kucherov was later fined for the trip, a slew-foot] Scott Mayfield, who’d taken exception to Kucherov roughing around with Leo Komarov.
The Isles then came up empty on their half of this abridged power play, a harbinger of things to come. The Islanders would get three more power plays — one in each period including overtime — but fail to beat Vasilevskiy, who made seven total saves on the PK (two in the OT 4-on-3).
Brock Nelson, Mathew Barzal and Josh Bailey each missed in the shootout. The Isles are now 2-5 in the skills drill this season. Barry Trotz mentioned something about needing to get better there, but a coin flip is a coin flip.
Barry Said It
To a man, from Greiss to the captain to head coach Barry Trotz, all the Islanders seemed fairly pleased with the effort in the first game back after a nine-day break.
They’re back at it again Saturday night, same place and same time, as the Kings reacquaint themselves with the Coliseum.