TAMPA, Fla. - A missed assignment. A flubbed power play. An ill-timed penalty. A bad goal. The Islanders didn't do too much wrong against the Lightning Saturday night, but there were just enough mistakes and miscues to push this one away from them.
The 5-2 final didn't indicate a domination by Tampa, nor a total meltdown by the Isles, who saw their five-game win streak end. The Islanders were up 2-1 in the first and trailed only 3-2 after that period.
"That's fine when you're on the road," Johnny Boychuk said. "We just couldn't get one."
The Lightning did when its chances came, which were sparing over the last 40 minutes. Mikhail Grabovski cut across the ice inside the Tampa zone barely 80 seconds into the second and crashed right into linemate Nikolay Kulemin. The Isles were scrambling back as a result and the Tampa trailer on the rush, Tyler Johnson, collected a pass and snapped a shot that went past the screened Chad Johnson for a 4-2 deficit.
And from there, the Isles stalled out with a couple of golden chances to pull closer. Kyle Okposo rang a shot off the crossbar and Frans Nielsen sent a backhand wide with Ben Bishop out of position. Both of those tries were on the power play, which went 0-for-4 and is now 1-for-16 over the last four games.
"We have to score on the power play," Okposo said. "It hasn't been up to par the last couple games. We've had some really good movement, but I think we need to shoot the puck a little more."
Nielsen had another good chance in the third, but his backhand with Bishop down and out sailed back through the crease and hit Kulemin in the face. It was that kind of night. Bishop was sharp, making 25 saves; Johnson gave up a softie to Radko Gudas from 50 feet to cinch things with 4:26 to go, but otherwise he pushed rebounds to seemingly safe spots that weren't so safe.
The first, a shot by Jason Garrison, ended up right on Ryan Callahan's stick as he cruised alone in the slot. That goal at 8:41 of the first made it 1-1 a minute after Brock Nelson's wrister opened the scoring.
The Isles got the lead back at 11:22 on Josh Bailey's redirection of Boychuk's point shot. But just 22 seconds later, Travis Hamonic took a slashing penalty for retaliating on Callahan after a hit, and Ryan Strome went off for hooking to put the Isles down two men for 11 seconds.
Valtteri Filppula scored to tie it just as that five-on-three ended. And another seemingly harmless play, a spin-around shot by Vlad Namestnikov, was turned away by Johnson, went through four Isles and right to Cedric Paquette, who scored on the rebound just 1:43 after the Lightning tied it.
"It's frustrating," Johnson said. "I'm kicking pucks out and they're going right to their guys. We're playing pretty decent hockey. It's just frustrating."
The Islanders host the Lightning on Tuesday and their 11-6-0 record is still nothing to be upset about. But the missed chances and miscues Saturday night could be enough to inspire the Isles, a good team through 17 games, to get back on the track that good teams take.
"Back-to-back nights, I honestly thought we were all right," Jack Capuano said. "We couldn't find a way to get back in it."