Monday’s 4-2 win over the Islanders was exactly how the Lightning wanted to finish their longest road trip of the season before returning to Florida for a five-game home stand.
Tampa Bay won its second consecutive game away from the St. Pete Times Forum, picking up a crucial two points that kept them on pace for a playoff spot approximately halfway through the season.
Monday’s contest at the Nassau Coliseum was the latest of the Lightning’s last seven wins in which they have scored four or more goals.
“This was one of those games we really wanted to dig deep,” Lightning head coach Rick Tocchet said. “It would have been nice to come back home knowing that you have some home games in front of you, in front of the hometown fans and getting closer to that .500 mark. So it was probably a big dig-down deep game for our team right now.”
Ryan Malone tied a career-high four points, recording two goals including his fifth game-winner of the season, ranking him in second place behind Atlanta’s Rich Peverley who has six.
Steven Stamkos and Vincent Lecavalier also tallied goals for the Lightning and goaltender Mike Smith made 36 stops on 38 shots against after recording a shutout against the Islanders in his last meeting on Dec. 5.
Two bad bounces prevented the Bolts from taking an early lead to open the game.
Stamkos hit the post after deking Isles goaltender Dwayne Roloson while going to his backhand, and Todd Fedoruk’s rebound effort appeared to have crossed the goal line after a scuffle in front of the New York net before further video review supported the officials’ original decision, keeping the game at a scoreless tie.
New York’s Trent Hunter tallied the game’s first mark on the power play at 16:47, which ended an 0 for 19 skid with the man advantage after the Islanders had converted 5 of 14 in their previous three contests.
“They’re a fast, young team. They were bringing it right at us,” Bolts defenseman Matt Smaby said.
Stamkos knotted the game at one goal apiece at 6:20 in the second period, recording his 21st of the season. The mark ranked him tied for fourth in goals behind league-leader Marian Gaborik.
The Islanders regained the lead in the second, coming off Nate Thompson’s first of the season at 16:25, but Lecavalier roofed one from the left circle with just 19 seconds remaining in the period to send a 2-2 game into the final frame. Alex Tanguay recorded his 600th career point, recording the assist on the goal.
“It was a great shot by Vinny. Unbelievable,” Lightning center Blair Jones said. “It was great to go into the third period tied up.”
Malone netted the game-winner with the man advantage that also broke a personal seven-game scoreless streak while giving Tampa Bay its first lead of the contest at 2:48. The Lightning winger then padded the lead soon after at 11:39, also on the power play, putting Tampa Bay up by a pair to ice the game.
“I just felt comfortable out there,” Malone said. “We weren’t that happy with the first 20 minutes. We weren’t moving our feet, we were making some bad decisions with the puck and we weren’t communicating. Those two goals though at the end really worked out well for us. I really think it’s about confidence now. We know that if we stick to the game plan we can play with anyone.”
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