Lightning Top Islanders For Sixth Straight Win

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, of Russia, makes a save as defensemen Luke Schenn (2) and Braydon Coburn (55) defend against New York Islanders’ Casey Cizikas (53) and Leo Komarov (47) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)


TAMPA — The wins keep coming.

A 3-1 win over the Islanders at Amalie Arena on Saturday night was the Lightning’s sixth straight victory and ninth in a row on home ice. The win also extended Tampa Bay’s points streak to 11 games (10-0-1).

Tampa Bay had lost its first two meetings against the Islanders this season by a combined 10-3, so they were able to salvage one in the season series.

“We played a simple game,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “We didn’t turn the puck over, we didn’t give them much and we held them to under 20 shots. For the most part, I felt we were very much in control just the way we played.”

After a scoreless first period, the Lightning broke the ice 14 seconds into the second period when Brayden Point took a Nikita Kucherov pass in the neutral zone, skated into the slot and blasted a shot past Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov.

Five minutes later Anthony Cirelli showed why he should be on his way to winning the Selke Award as the league’s best defensive forward. Cirelli caught Mathew Barzal, who was breaking in on goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, from behind and took the puck away in thwarting what appeared to be a prime opportunity for the Islanders to even the score.

The fans responded by cheering the effort

“I knew I had to get back there and help out Vasy,” said Cirelli. “You don’t want to give him a breakaway from that far out. I just tried my best and got a stick on it. It was a pretty cool thing for the fans to cheer.”

Cooper certainly appreciated the effort from his 22-year-old forward.

“There’s not much more you can say about Tony and his play and just never-give-up attitude,” he said. “Barzal is a pretty quick little player and to track him down from behind and make that play without taking a penalty….the guys on the bench really appreciated that.”

Carter Verhaeghe scored what proved to be the game-winning goal at 6:25 of third. Verhaeghe skated out of the left-wing corner and, all alone, showed great patience before putting a backhander past Varlamov.

The Islanders cut the lead in half when Derrick Brassard scored on the powerplay at 12:12 of the final period. New York owned much of the play over the course of the next few minutes, but they were unable to get the equalizer on a night when the Lightning held them to 18 shots on goal.

Steven Stamkos tacked on an empty-netter with 1:02 remaining to seal the win.

It looked like the Lightning, who have not allowed more than three goals in a game since the calendar flipped to 2020, a stretch of 17 games, might have to come from behind in order to get the job done. Barzal scored on a nifty short-side shot with 38 seconds left in the opening period. However, the Lightning correctly challenged that Barzal was offside, which he clearly was.

The victory enabled Vasilevskiy, who has a league-high 29 wins, to extend his team-record points streak to 18 (16-0-2).

The Lightning hit the road for back-to-back games at Columbus on Monday night and at Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.

Tom Layberger is also a contributing writer for forbes.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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Tom Layberger has been a sports writer and editor since 1990. Among the companies he has worked for are Beckett Publishing, The Topps Company and Comcast. In addition to being a contributing writer for sportstalkflorida.com, Tom also writes for forbes.com and Tampa Bay Business & Wealth Magazine. A native of the Philadelphia suburbs and a University of South Florida grad, Tom is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation. He resides in Tampa.