Balanced Attack Beats Tampa Bay

When the New York Islanders last welcomed the Tampa Bay Lightning to Nassau Coliseum, it took just 36 seconds for them to establish their lead and roll to a 5-1 victory.

On Tuesday night, the Islanders allowed Tampa to score first, but the result would end up exactly the same.

Al Montoya, whose fine play has been carrying the Isles of late (with his 2.17 Goals Against Average and .931 save percentage coming in to the contest) started in goal. The Islanders faced Mathieu Garon in the other end.

Though they fired the first five shots of the game, none got past Garon. When Tampa Bay was able to get their first shot on net, a blast from the stick of Brett Clark near the point, Martin St. Louis redirected it past Montoya for his 800th career NHL point.

Inexplicably, the Isles trailed 1-0 while outplaying a listless Tampa squad.

The Islanders soon got things headed in the right direction, as John Tavares ended a thirteen game goalless drought at the 14:01 mark of the first period. Matt Moulson (who else) fed Tavares the puck from the boards as he cut right down the middle of the ice toward Garon. With the pass right on his stick he flipped it right past Garon’s glove hand and in.

The Islanders added two more goals in the final 90 seconds of the period, both from unexpected sources.

Matt Martin recorded his third goal of the year at 18:26, followed by a brilliant tic-tac-toe play with a man advantage resulting in Milan Jurcina’s first goal of the season. Tim Wallace recorded his first point as an Islander when he was credited with an assist on Martin's goal.

When the game moved to the second period, the Islanders continued to outwork their opponent. Though teams both recorded 11 shots per side in the frame, it was the Islanders winning every puck battle and creating the far better chances.

Josh Bailey looked especially good on this night.

Head coach Jack Capuano agreed, saying of Bailey “He got off to a slow start, obviously, but it was just a matter of time before it started to come around for him.”

“I never really worried about Josh, his work ethic or his character,” Capuano summarized.

Brimming with confidence entering the final frame, the Islanders created a memorable moment for one of their newest players, David Ullstrom. At 3:19 into the period Bailey streaked down the left side of the ice. With Ullstrom trailing him, he called for the puck, Bailey dropped it beautifully, and the Swede put the puck home for his first National Hockey League goal.

“I yelled the whole way for it,” the jubilant Ullstrom said after the game. “[Bailey] heard me at the last second and left a great pass between his legs. I just shot.”

Despite his early hiccup, Al Montoya once again played great. He saved 22 shots on route to the win and was named one of the game’s three stars.

Matt Moulson wasn’t honored by the media on this particular night, but the talk during and after the game was of how dependable of a goal scorer he has become. He leads the team with 14 goals.

On defense, Mark Streit logged 22 minutes and earned another two assists. Twelve Islanders recorded points in the game.

The Islanders remain hot, having earned points in their last five games (four wins and a shootout loss).

They face Chicago and Pittsburgh later in the week, both of which will present a challenge for the streaky (and streaking) Islanders.

You can follow the author on Twitter at @RealKenDick and The Checking Line at @TCLIsles.


Brian Bock's picture

Islanders played a tremendous game for the full 60 minutes - something that was lacking during their slow start to the season. This recent stretch is very similar to how they played during the second half of last season, and is how most fans hoped/expected them to start this year. Bailey looked great, and nice to have Tavares back in the goal column. Two big games coming up with the Hawks and Pens - 4 more points would do wonders for their confidence and the perception of this team around the league.

Rob McGowan's picture

It was a great game for them by far. The Hawks will be a test; they came so close against them the other night, so there is reason to believe they can fight there way for two points instead of one. The Penguins will be the real tough match-up. Hopefully they will have a fire in their belly after being humiliated in that 5-0 loss in Crosby's first game back. And oh, let's hope Montoya starts too.