The New York Islanders played a strong game for 57 minutes and led 2-0 but then watched it all crumble in the final 2:53. Valtteri Filppula scored twice for the Lightning to tie the game and then delivered the game winning goal in the shootout as the Lightning downed the Islanders 3-2 at the Nassau Coliseum.
The postgame locker room was a quiet place as the team searched for answers to their recent struggles. The Isles have now lost 13 of their last 14 games (1-9-4).
“The last few weeks it’s just not finishing. It’s tough,” Isles captain John Tavares said. “You just play to the end and make sure they don’t score. It’s just plain and simple. It’s disappointing and it’s frustrating as hell.”
The Islanders played a solid game for the first 57 minutes and led 2-0 on goals by Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen.
Okposo’s tally came on the power play in the opening seconds of the second period off a nice pass by Tavares. Okposo let a low blast go from the left point that got past a screen Ben Bishop and the Islanders had the lead.
A pretty play by Michael Grabner set up the Islanders’ second goal. Grabner passed the puck to himself along the boards at center ice to elude a defender and then passed to a trailing Nielsen who scored on a wrist shot to make it 2-0 for the Isles with just 9:39 left in the game.
At the other end of the ice, the Islanders were getting strong goaltending from Evgeni Nabokov who made 34 saves in the game.
But in the final 180 seconds of regulation, all of the good the Isles accomplished in the first 57 minutes of the game was erased.
First, Nielsen made a rare bad clearing attempt that Filppula converted to ruin Nabokov’s shutout bid with 2:53 left in the third period.
The Lightning pulled Bishop and Filppula ended up tying the game off a mad scramble in front of the Islanders’ net with just 3.8 seconds to go in regulation time.
“All of our efforts go to the crapper,” Nabokov said after the game. “We just don’t know how to win right now. That’s it.”
Neither team scored in the overtime and the game went to a shootout. Filppula scored again in the shootout to give Tampa Bay the lead but Nielsen answered with one of his patented backhanders to even the shootout at 1-1. Nikita Kucherov then faked out Nabokov and slid the puck through the five-hole with one hand on his stick to give the Lightning the lead for good. Bishop clinched the win for Tampa Bay when he stopped Tavares on the final shootout attempt.
Coach Jack Capuano is running out of ways to describe his team’s frustration. “It sucks. I’ll tell you what, it was just puck management at the end. We had a chance on the first one to get it out and we had two chances on the second one to get it out but they won the battle, they had the will…As well as we played for 50-whatever minutes, it’s tough to swallow. We’ve got to find a way to get it done.”
The Islanders next chance to get it done comes on Friday when they visit Madison Square Garden to take on the Rangers.
The Islanders are now 0-16-5 when they score two or fewer goals in a game this season.
Gordie Howe was in attendance, as was commissioner Gary Bettman.
The Islanders played without Casey Cizikas who remained out with a jaw injury. Matt Carkner and Colin McDonald were healthy scratches. Lubomir Visnovsky has now missed 27 games due to a concussion.
Tampa Bay was missing Victor Hedman and Keith Aulie due to injuries as well.
Matt Martin dropped the gloves with B.J. Crombeen of the Lightning in the second period with Martin winning the bout.