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Gourde, Vasilevskiy lead the way in Lightning win over Islanders

Photo Courtesy Wayne Masut | Senior Staff Photographer

When the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders last linked up at Amalie Arena on November 18, the Isles roared out to a 2-0 first period lead. That lead increased to 4-0 before the Lightning mounted a third period rally that fell short in a 5-3 loss.

Having won four of their previous five and eight of their last 10 games, the Islanders returned to Tampa on Tuesday night having beat the Panthers 5-4 in a shootout the previous night. The Lightning won their previous game 5-2 over the San Jose Sharks at home on Saturday. One of the keys to this game for the Bolts was getting off to a fast start.

While they roared off to that fast start, the Lightning (19-6-2) endured a rough stretch during the second period before putting the pedal down and pulling away from the Islanders (16-9-2) for a 6-2 win at Amalie Arena. Tampa Bay got off to a 2-0 lead after one period before being dominated for much of the second. After the Islanders knotted the game up 2-2, the Bolts scored three goals in the span of 2:24 late in the period en route to the win. The Lightning have now won two straight after losing four out of six.

Yanni Gourde led the way with a pair of goals, including the go-ahead marker. Nikita Kucherov added two assists, while Brayden Point, Andrej Sustr, and Vlad Namestnikov scored the other goals. Andrei Vasilevskiy finished with 29 saves, while his counterpart, Isles goalie Thomas Greiss, gave up 6 goals on 34 shots. All in all, 13 Lightning skaters finished the night with at least one point on the score sheet.

From the opening faceoff to the first intermission, the Lightning absolutely dominated the first period.

Point notched his 10th goal of the season just 34 seconds into the contest when he was left open in front of the net, one-timing a pass from Ondrej Palat past Isles goalie Thomas Griess. Nikita Kucherov earned the secondary assist on that goal.

Minutes later, Vlad Namestnikov nearly found Tyler Johnson for an identical goal, but Greiss slid over to make the save. Throughout the first 20 minutes, all four Lightning lines controlled play, maintaining puck possession for long stretches in New York’s zone. Ryan Callahan nearly tallied a pair of goals, but was unable to hit the back of the net.

However, Sustr did hit the back of the net for the second time this season. His shot from the point appeared to bounce off Isles defenseman Ryan Pulock and in, putting the Bolts up 2-0 with 2:13 left on the clock. Chris Kunitz and Callahan notched the assists. The Lightning had an 11-2 lead in shots on goal at the intermission.

Whatever Islanders coach Doug Weight told his team at the intermission seemed to work.

The script of this game completely flipped during the opening 15 minutes of the second period. Whereas the Lightning controlled play in the first 20 minutes, the Islanders tilted the ice in their favor for much of the second period. New York scored a pair of goals in the span of 1:51, tying the game 2-2 midway through the period.

Rookie sensation Matthew Barzal tallied his seventh goal of the campaign on a power play, wheeling around Anton Stralman before firing a backhand shot past Vasilevskiy at 7:07. Barzal then notched the primary assist on Jordan Eberle’s goal at the 8:58 mark. Dashing through the Lightning defense, Barzal dished a perfect setup to Eberle. Eberle made no mistake in one-timing it past Vasilevskiy for his 11th of the season. With 5:41 left on the clock, the Islanders were out-shooting the Bolts 14-3 in the middle period. Vasilevskiy found himself making several key saves to keep it knotted up.

Throughout this season, the Lightning’s power play has been lethal, and it came to the rescue during the final five minutes of the period.

As Jason Chimera sat in the box for roughing, the Bolts went on the power play. After taking a pass from Johnson, defenseman Mikhail Sergachev uncorked a shot from the point that caromed off the boards behind the net. Gourde was in the right place at the right time in front of the net, where he put the rebound home to give the Lightning a 3-2 lead with 3:38 left on the clock.

A mere 1:34 later, Gourde scored again, putting the Lightning up 4-2. Cory Conacher’s cross-ice feed found it’s way to a streaking Slater Koekkoek. Koekkoek’s shot was denied by Greiss in front of the net. Despite that, Gourde was there to pick up the mess, scoring on another rebound for his eighth goal and a 4-2 lead.

The Islanders made the mistake of going shorthanded against the Lightning again, as Anders Lee went to the box for tripping Kucherov. Just four seconds into the power play, Namestnikov camped out by the crease and scored on a rebound to put the Bolts up 5-2 only 50 seconds after Gourde’s second tally. The Lightning ended up still leading in shots on goal 24-19 at the second intermission despite the Isles’ dominance in that department for much of the middle stanza.

During the offseason, the signing of Chris Kunitz wasn’t made with the expectation that he’d bring first line offense.

However, if you saw his goal in the third period, you would be forgiven if you had thought the 2013 version of Kunitz had jumped through a time machine to the present day.

Kunitz stripped the puck from Isles defenseman Johnny Boychuk along the boards in the neutral zone, and then took off. He held off a defender as he blazed down the left wing before blasting a shot top shelf past Greiss. That goal, his fourth of the year, came exactly six minutes into the period. As a result, the Bolts went up 6-2 and turned on cruise control the rest of the way.

The Lightning continue their four-game homestand on Thursday when they host the Colorado Avalanche at 7:30 pm.

My Three Stars of the Game

3rd Star: Brayden Point – Scored the game’s opening goal 34 seconds into the first period.

2nd Star: Andrei Vasilevskiy – Finished with 29 saves.

1st Star: Yanni Gourde – Scored two goals, including the game-winner, in the span of 1:34



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