The Tampa Bay Lightning view that the team’s recent stretch of adversity as only a test that is sure to make them better when each game counts the most.
With the playoffs looming and just nine games remaining on the regular season schedule, it is likely that breakthrough moment could come exactly at the right time.
Tampa Bay dropped its third straight game, despite collecting points in six of its last eight contests, falling 5-2 to the New York Islanders Tuesday night at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Nate Thompson and Dominic Moore each had goals for the Lightning, 39-23-11. Dwayne Roloson also made 23 saves for Tampa Bay, who in fifth place with 89 points sits three points behind Pittsburgh for fourth in the Eastern Conference standings.
“We’ve hit a wall here,” Lightning forward Martin St. Louis said. “But we’re going to fight through it and break that wall down and just keep going.”
The Islanders entered the contest as one of the league’s hottest teams since the All-Star break, going 14-6-5 since Feb. 1. Josh Bailey, Kyle Okposo and Matt Martin each had goals for New York, who improved to 6-1-4 in the month of March.
“For us to come in here against a team that is jockeying for a playoff position with that talent they have, and to win, I’m pretty proud of the effort that we put forth tonight,” Islanders head coach Jack Capuano said.
Okposo’s go-ahead goal at 5:16 of the second period sparked an Islanders scoring spree that helped them out to a 4-1 lead with 10 minutes to go. After Moore cut the deficit to two at 10:31 of the final period while on the power play, Michael Grabner’s shorthanded empty-net tally concluded the scoring and sealed the win, which was New York’s second in as many games.
Al Montoya turned back 36 shots to earn his first win since Mar. 11. The Islanders goaltender had won four of his previous five decisions before snapping a three-game winless streak with Tuesday night’s victory.
“It feels really good to win,” Montoya said. “Our goal was to come here and play our best game. I give the credit to our team though. They battled and that just motivated me to play harder.”
Thompson wasted little time opening the scoring, putting home a rebound out in front at 1:01 of the first.
Bailey tied it on the power play when he cleaned up a loose puck out in front and put it in an empty net after a clearing attempt by the Lightning’s Adam Hall was kept in the Islanders’ offensive zone.
The Islanders went up by one early on in the second period. With Milan Jurcina standing at the point, Okposo positioned himself in the slot and made it 2-1 with a tip-in of Jurcina’s shot at 5:16.
Although just his fifth of the season, Okposo’s goal snapped an eight-game scoring drought that dated back to Mar. 5.
“That felt really good,” Okposo said. “It has been a little bit of an elephant on my back and it was nice to get one.”
Martin put New York up by two with a nifty backhand move that beat Roloson at 13:39. He took a pass along the left wing from Jack Hillen and skated in before dekeing Roloson and putting one high in the top corner above the shoulder.
Tampa Bay had a number of chances to pull back within one, but Vincent Lecavalier’s shot from the end boards early in the third deflected off a goal post. It was one of a number of additional chances throughout the final 40 minutes, which saw the Lightning hold a 29-17 advantage in shots.
“This is one of those things where it’s not going out way,” Thompson said. “But we have to make it go our way. These are times when you stick together and bounce back.”
Moore’s power-play goal that came just 3:23 after Frans Nielsen scored shorthanded at 8:08 in the final period attempted to get Tampa Bay back in the contest. He brought the margin to within two after he roofed a deflection out in front of the net past Montoya at 10:31.
The Lightning, however, couldn’t take advantage of a pair of late power plays, the first of which occurred at 13:36 with John Tavares in the box for high-sticking, before missing out on another opportunity with under two minutes to play.
“We didn’t really execute well tonight,” St. Louis said. “There was not enough energy.”
Grabner’s empty-net goal while shorthanded capped the scoring at 19:14.
“It’s tough, and it’s very demanding mentally,” St. Louis added. “We just want to hit strides going into the playoffs and I believe we will. Right now, we’re being tested and each and every one of us has to fight through and answer that test.”
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