UNIONDALE, N.Y. – In front of an electric crowd of 16,170 the Islanders defeated the Tampa Bay Lighting 4-2, and put some distance between themselves and the ninth place New Jersey Devils.
Despite giving up the lead two times, the Islanders stuck with it and eventually saw Matt Martin score the game winner late in the third period. Martins goal came on a puck the Isles enforcer flung on net and beat Bishop five-hole.
“I wasn’t expecting that shot to necessarily go in,” Martin said. “Casey did a good job at the end of his shift moving his legs and getting to the net and bringing the two D men with him. They got some big bodies there and Bishop couldn’t see it. Puck went into the net and that’s what happens.”
The Islanders were first to jump on the scoreboard. Michael Grabner, who was playing on the first line to replace a sick Matt Moulson, scored at 14:45 from the high slot to give them the 1-0 lead.
However, the Lighting would start the second strong and eventually tied the game less than five minutes in. About four minutes after that Josh Bailey scored from in front of the net, courtesy of a great feed from Kyle Okposo, and put the Islanders back on top 2-1.
In the third the Lightning, again, evened up the game. This time with Matt Carle scoring on a virtual empty net four minutes into the period. But at 13:34 Martin scored the game winner and Andrew MacDonald scored on an empty net in the final minute to secure the win.
“We’re playing with composure and managing the puck really well,” Evgeni Nabokov said after the game. “We just have to keep going. We’re killing the penalty well. We’re doing a lot of good things. We just have to continue to do that.”
Nabokov was a big part of the Islanders success. He made 19 saves in the win and at times had to stand on his head to keep the Lightning from scoring. But after the game he would not discuss his individual performance.
While the Islanders top line did record a goal Saturday night, it was the secondary scoring that has continued to help the team win. A goal from Martin, known more for his hitting than goal scoring, is what the Islanders need to be successful. “That’s key to success I think for anything. You need that depth and we’ve been getting it lately. I think it showed in the win category for us,” Bailey said.
The win over the Lightning was the Islanders third straight win at home, which is quite significant since they have struggled at the Coliseum all season long. And unlike the start of the year, Saturday night’s game was packed and the building was full of energy.
“Anyone who was in this building tonight felt the energy and [the fans] were like the seventh man out there for us tonight,” Bailey said.