The Tampa Bay Lightning opened a two-game road trip with a loss to the New York Islanders tonight, 3-1, at the Nassau Coliseum.
The Lightning opened the game with lots of energy and lots of shots, at one point in the first period holding a 10-3 shot advantage over the Islanders.
Each team had two opportunities with the extra attacker in the opening stanza, but the only fireworks came when Vincent Lecavalier took exception to a hit by New York forward Tim Jackman on Tampa Bay’s starting netminder, Karri Ramo, behind the Lightning net. While standing up for his goaltender, Lecavalier got a five-minute major for fighting.
The first period came to a scoreless close with the Lightning having much the better of it, 11 shots to only 7 for the Islanders.
Not far into period two, the scoreboard began to light up, and it was the Islanders throwing the switch. With Lecavalier in the penalty box for hooking, the Isles needed just 19 seconds to convert the power play as Trent Hunter, standing to the right of the Lightning net, picked the puck waist-high out of mid-air and bunted it past Ramo for the first goal of the game.
Goal number 2 for the Isles followed just barely more than two minutes later when a shot from the blue line hit Ramo, dropped behind him, and dribbled into the net. Defenseman Mark Streit got credit for the score.
The Islanders got their third goal of the period just 83 seconds later when a sharp-angle shot from below the left faceoff circle deflected off Paul Ranger’s stick and over Ramo’s shoulder at 9:52.
The three goals in 3:25 would be enough for Ramo, who left the game with 13 saves on 16 shots. His replacement, Mike McKenna, was making his NHL debut, having signed a contract with the Lightning earlier in the day.
While the puck was finding the Tampa Bay net via deflections and accidental misdirections, no such good fortune was available for the Bolts at the other end of the ice.
At 17:46 of the second period, Vaclav Prospal blasted a shot from the right faceoff circle that soundly hit the right post and bounced away. Barely two minutes later, with only eight seconds remaining in the stanza, Lecavalier rang a shot off the opposite post.
And when the shots were on net, like Steve Downie’s try from the left faceoff circle, Islander netminder Yann Danis was in position to make the stop.
Skating with a five-on-three advantage early in the third period, Tampa Bay got on the scoreboard when Lecavalier took a perfect pass from Mark Recchi and whipped a slapshot from the left faceoff circle past Danis. The goal was a team-best number 23 on the season for Lecavalier and propelled him into sole possession of the 10th spot among all NHL goal scorers this season. Along with Recchi, Cory Murphy also received credit for an assist.
That was the only time in the game that Tampa Bay could get the puck past Danis, as he finished with 29 saves on 30 Lightning shots.
For the Lightning, Martin St. Louis led the team with four shots on net while defenseman Matt Smaby delivered the most hits, four, on the night.
Mckenna closed out the game by stopping all 11 shots he faced in his first NHL game, playing over 28 minutes of ice time.
Tampa Bay can put this loss, their third consecutive, behind them quickly as they travel to Pittsburgh to face the Penguins tomorrow night, before returning to Tampa for six home games in a row.