Lightning Fall To “Opportunistic” Islanders

New York Islanders left wing Ross Johnston celebrates his second-period goal that gave his team a 1-0 lead against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday, Dec. 9, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

TAMPA — Last Thursday night the Lightning started a stretch where 10 of 12 games would be played in the friendly confines of Amalie Arena.

Presumably, the home cooking would lift this team into, or at least near, the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference. While that still may happen, Tampa Bay completed a three-game homestand going 1-2 after falling to the Islanders, 5-1, on Monday night.

It is not like the Lightning, who had many quality shots among their 32, did not have their chances. Trailing 2-1 after two periods, Tampa Bay spent the first several minutes of the third period living in the Isles’ zone, but could not get the equalizer.

The Islanders then rattled off three goals.

“They were the more opportunistic team tonight,” said Kevin Shattenkirk, of a New York team that seemed to take advantage of every golden chance. “We’re working hard and putting a great effort forward. Obviously, we are not getting the results we want.”

New York, which scored twice in a 1:53 span in the middle period, with the second goal being the fourth shorthanded tally allowed by the Lightning this season, took a 3-1 lead when Luke Schenn could not control a loose puck behind the net. The puck popped out in front to Brock Nelson, who made good on his own rebound at 7:31.

At 9:53 it appeared as though the Lightning cut the deficit to one for the second time. However, a goal by Victor Hedman was nullified when the Islanders rightly challenged that Anthony Cirelli was offside.

“That was too bad,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “We needed that. But it wasn’t just offside, it was way offside.”

Nelson scored again from that slot at 14:41 and Anders Lee accounted for the final margin on the powerplay at 16:05.

“It’s getting into the part of the season where we want to get on a little roll here,” said Steven Stamkos, whose goal at 15:35 of the second period made it 2-1. “For whatever reason, the last game (7-1 win over San Jose on Saturday night) everything went in and tonight nothing went in. We will continue to work hard and turn the page.”

Stamkos’ goal and Tampa Bay’s strong play to start the third period put them in a good position.

“It was a 2-1 game and I really liked the first seven minutes of the third period,” said Cooper. “We were buzzing and unfortunately they get the third one. If we tie it, it is probably a much different game.”

The Lightning did not tie it and fell to 14-11-3. Think about this: Cooper’s team is 10-11-3 when scoring less than seven goals.

Following a date with the Panthers in Sunrise on Tuesday night, the Lightning will play seven of their next eight at home starting with a visit from Boston on Thursday evening at 7:00.

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Tom Layberger has been a sports writer, reporter and editor since 1990. Among the companies he has worked for are Comcast, NBC and The Topps Company. In addition to being a contributing writer for sportstalkflorida.com, Tom also writes for forbes.com and globalsportmatters.com. A native of the Philadelphia suburbs and a USF grad, Tom is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation. He resides in Tampa.