Bolts Outlast Isles in 13 Round Shootout
The Islanders were sporting a very inexperienced lineup last night when they took on the Tampa Bay Lightning. When Bridgeport call up John Persson arrived at the Tampa Bay Times Forum some 15 minutes prior to puck drop, it solidified that the Islanders would be dressing 10 rookies on a 20 man roster. Injuries played a major part in the fact there are so many rookies on the roster, but the kids are also earning their time with the Islanders.
The first period concluded with the Islanders and Lightning in a scoreless tie. There were a few opportunities for both sides but nothing substantial. For the Islanders, the kids were skating their tails off but failed to find the back of the net. As far as the Lightning were concerned, they played a sloppy first period and seemed to lack the jump you would expect from a team looking to solidify some home ice advantage in the playoffs. Remarkably at the end of the first period John Persson, who was making his NHL debut lead all Isles in ice time.
After an uneventful opening period, the second period took a much different turn as former Ranger Ryan Callahan scored just 29 seconds in. Callahan, as he usually does was flying all game being the typical thorn in the side that he is to the Isles. The youthful Islanders responded quickly though. Top prospect Ryan Strome scored just 1:04 after Callahan's tally to get the game tied at 1. Strome scored from the side of the net, carefully placing a shot off of Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop's shoulder and into the net. Goals like this show the pure goal scoring ability that Strome does possess and that will only get better with time. The Islanders would score the next goal to go up 2-1. Rookie defenseman Matt Donovan scored from the slot just about half way through the period on a beautiful feed from Frans Nielsen from behind the net. The goal was Donovan's second of the season and of his career. The period would come to an end with the Islanders up 2-1. Unfortunately this season is not one where the Isles carrying a lead into the third period has been a good thing.
Like we have known to be a sad truth, the Islanders lost their lead 5:50 into the the third period when once again, Ryan Callahan put his second goal of the night past Evgeni Nabokov. The feeling in our stomachs came back as we thought this would be yet another game squandered. To the credit of the young Islanders team, they did not fold and let Tampa Bay take this one from them. The two clubs played back and fourth hockey right up until the final buzzer as the game and ultimately overtime came to an end. The Lightning gave the Isles a scare late in overtime though as they were controlling the play on a power play and the Isles were caught chasing them all over. Defenseman Thomas Hickey made a diving play at the blueline to clear the puck of the zone which brought the extra frame to a close.
When the shootout started we knew the Isles lacked experience. The Lightning elected to go first and their first three shooters were Ryan Malone, Mike Kostka and Ondrej Palat. The Islanders would counter with Ryan Strome, Frans Nielsen and Brock Nelson. Kostka and Nielsen each scored in the second round along with Palat ant Nelson in the third. The shootout would ultimately go 13 rounds as defenseman Sami Salo scored the winning goal for the Lightning with a nifty backhand. 3 out of the 5 Lightning goals in the shootout were scored by defensemen.
Although the Islanders squandered another third period lead, this one wasn't as much of a let down. This is a very inexperienced team and the loss didn't feel like it was a result of a poor effort or giving up. The Lightning are a very good team in a high playoff position with a goaltender who can easily win the Vezina trophy this year. There was fight from the Islanders all game and they gave it all they could. I'm hesitant to say that the future looks bright because I for one am tired of saying that about this team. At some point the future needs to become the present, but for what it's worth this was a fun game to watch.