Thursday’s game at the St. Pete Times Forum ended just the same way the very first one did when the arena opened 15 years ago – with a Tampa Bay Lightning victory.
Photos: Lightning vs. Islanders
Video: Nate Thompson Miked Up
Video: Boucher Post-Game Press
Video: Steven Stamkos Post-Game
Audio: Sound from Malone,
Stamkos and Brewer
Statistics: Game Summary
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Vincent Lecavalier had a goal and two points and Teddy Purcell added a pair of assists as the Lightning downed the Islanders 4-1 in front of a crowd of 18,181 on the 15th anniversary of the inaugural game played the St. Pete Times Forum.
As opposed to the inconsistency the team displayed through the first six games, Thursday’s contest was met with more energy and the same effort that proved to be such a big reason why the Lightning made it all the way to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final last spring.
“We weren’t even keel through the first five games,” forward Ryan Malone said. “We know that there are ups and downs in every season, but we were a lot higher tonight than we were in the first few games to start the season.”
Mathieu Garon pitched in 16 saves, including three on John Tavares in the first period. The New York center was held scoreless after picking up four points in each of his last two games. His team wasn’t much better, as the Islanders mustered just 17 shots on goal throughout the night, the fewest allowed by the Lightning all season.
"They outworked us," New York coach Jack Capuano said. "They had more desperation to their game. They got around our goaltender, and our forwards didn't get around their goaltender. And to me that was a huge difference in the game, their net presence versus our net presence."
After allowing five power-play goals in a 7-4 loss to Florida on Monday, the Lightning had just three penalties Thursday, including one as the game ended.
This time, it was New York’s inability to stay out of the box which got Tampa Bay going early on.
Malone’s power-play goal past Al Montoya at 16:32 of the first period opened the scoring. Montoya made an initial save on Lecavalier’s shot from down low, but the rebound popped out right to Malone, who buried it past the Islanders’ net minder for a 1-0 lead.
To be on the right side of the man advantage was a welcomed change for the Tampa Bay, which prior to a pair of games against Florida in its last two outings, had killed off 22 consecutive opposing power-play chances to start the season.
“Tonight it was really important that we stayed disciplined,” Malone said. “After our last game here it was nice to see us be the ones with an aggressive forecheck. We did a good job of not allowing them too many chances.”
Lecavalier doubled the Bolts’ lead towards the end of the second period when he roofed one over the glove of Montoya with just over four minutes to play in the frame.
Stamkos, appearing in his 250th-career game, made it 3-0 after finishing off an easy feed in front from Purcell.
“Offensively, our guys were certainly on the same page tonight,” Lightning head coach Guy Boucher said.
Garon yielded his first goal of the game to Michael Grabner at 7:55 of the third.
After coming in with wins in each of its past three games, New York lost for the first time since being shutout in the season opener against Florida.
Clark’s goal at 16:59 of the final period closed out the scoring for Tampa Bay.
“If we play the game we played tonight, we’ll give our chance to win every single night,” Stamkos said. “We showed tonight why we were successful last year.”