Christian Arnold, Islanders Point Blank:UNIONDALE, N.Y. — There is an old adage in hockey no lead is safe.
On Tuesday night the Islanders proved that adage true once again, falling to the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 in the shootout. The Islanders held a 2-0 lead heading into the game’s final three minutes, when two quick goals by Tampa Bay sunk the hopes of a New York Victory.
“The last few weeks it’s just not finishing. It’s tough,” a frustrated John Tavares told reporters after the game.
It was the second game in a row that the Islanders had a strong performance in a contest, but failed to come away with the two points.
The loss is all the more frustrating, since for 57 minutes it looked as though the Islanders fortunes were turning around. Kyle Okposo scored 11 seconds into the second period while the Isles were on the power play. A slap shot from the point found the back of the net and gave the Islanders the 1-0 lead.
The strong defensive play of the Islanders, along with a strong penalty killed, fueled the hope that Tuesday was the Islanders night. Then at the 10:21 mark the Islanders pulled ahead by two goals courtesy of the Nielsen line. It was by far their best game to date and after several quality scoring chances they finally converted. Frans Nielsen scored from the near side off a pass from Michael Grabner during an odd-man rush.
The goal was Nielsen’s first in 13 games and Grabner’s assist on the play was his first point since October 17.
But just as quickly as things were looking up, they came crashing back down in the final three minutes. A goal by Valtteri Filppula at 17:07 cut the Isles lead to one. Filppula scored again with 3.8 seconds left in regulation during a mad scramble in front of the Islanders net.
“We’re jumping on our goalie. We have defenseman leaving their feet,” head coach Jack Capuano said of the final five seconds of regulation. “You defend with your sticks. Thats the way they’re going to score their goals. But again to me it was just a matter of making sure we got the puck down the ice…and playing physical in front of our net. Didn’t happen.”
The game went to overtime and then to the shootout, where Filppula and Nikita Kucherov both scored for the Lightning to secure the win.
“When you play the right way for 57 minutes and you don’t get the result you want it’s frustrating,” Okposo said. “Especially tonight. We gotta find a way to win games sooner rather than later.”
New York has now dropped 13 of their last 14 games. The team will have three days to try and fix things before they meet with the Rangers on Friday at Madison Square Garden. Now 35 games into the season wins are becoming more and more crucial for the Islanders. Losses like Tuesday’s and even Saturday’s will come back to haunt the team even more if they can’t find a way out of thier current slump.
“You gotta trust the process and the hockey gods are testing us right now,” Okposo added.