The New York Islanders improved to 12-6-0 this season with a 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday. It was the teams 6th win in their last 7 games and leaves them squarely in second place behind the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Isles got scoring production from everyone tonight as Cal Clutterbuck, Ryan Strome, Mikhail Grabovski, Brock Nelson and Casey Cizikas each tallied goals. One of the most promising story lines of this young season is how the Islanders depth has been on display and tonight was a prime example of that. When you score 5 goals without any from your first line forwards, that is phenomenal secondary scoring.
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Jaroslav Halak didn’t have his best night, but then again he didn’t have to. Still, Halak had 26 saves but will undoubtedly need to be better in the teams next two games-a home and home series with the Penguins starting Friday night in Pittsburgh. Alex Killorn and Ondrej Palat scored the two Lightning goals, both off rebounds in the crease which Halak was unable to control. Halak has raised his save percentage to .914 and lowered his goals against average 2.54 on the year. Halak is currently on pace for 50 wins this season.
It was not a happy homecoming for Lightning goalie Evgeni Nabokov, who was returning to Long Island for the first time since signing with Tampa Bay in the off-season. Nabokov made some phenomenal saves in the first period, especially when the Isles had a 5 on 3 for more than a minute early in the first, and kept the Lightning in the game after one period. Clutterbuck’s shorthanded goal went top shelf on Nabokov 39 ticks into the second period (a nice way for Cal to celebrate his 27th birthday), and that opened the flood gates.
The Canuck Way
A sour note from tonights game was that the Islanders were only able to manage a paltry 1 for 6 on the power play tonight, making the PP 2 for its last 22 chances. Another item of note from tonights game is the line shuffling that head coach Jack Capuano started in the second period. With the game tied at 1, Capuano placed Kyle Okposo on the second line right wing with Frans Nielsen and Grabovski (which resulted in Grabo’s goal that gave the Isles a 2-1 lead) and placed Josh Bailey in Nelson’s spot with Strome and Anders Lee. That changed also worked as Bailey posted up in front of Nabokov as Strome got one on net for the third Isles goal. Lubomir Visnovsky got the Islanders out of their power-play funk by ripping a slap shot that Nelson tipped by Nabokov to make it 4-1. Cizikas forced a turnover in the defensive zone, sped out on a breakaway and went top shelf on Nabokov to seal the win with the Isles’ 5th goal of the night.
The Islanders travel to Pittsburgh on friday for their second date with the Penguins, then return home to host Pittsburgh on Saturday at the Coliseum.