One thing works, the other goes awry. Something else gets fixed, another aspect goes south.
That’s the story of a Lightning team out of sync and nearly out of time.
Tampa Bay goaltender Anders Lindback put in another solid showing, only to have the Lightning offense stymied in a 2-0 loss to the New York Islanders on Thursday night in front of an announced sellout crowd of 19,204 at The Forum. It was Tampa Bay’s first game without injured captain Vinny Lecavalier.
John Tavares scored a power-play goal in the second period that proved to be the only goal Evgeni Nabokov needed. He pitched an 18-save shutout, spoiling Lindback’s 27-save performance.
Brad Boyes iced the game with an empty-net goal with 39.4 seconds left to prevent Tampa Bay from winning back-to-back games for the first time Feb.?16-19.
With only 21 games left in the 48-game schedule, time is running out for the Lightning to salvage their strong 6-1 start. They are eight points behind Carolina for the Southeast Division lead and seven points behind Winnipeg for the final playoff spot.
“We had an ugly win last game and we had hoped to build on it. We didn’t seize the opportunity tonight,” Lightning forward Teddy Purcell said.
Just as Lindback has appeared to turn his game around — he has allowed two or fewer goals in each of his past four starts — the Lightning offense has sort of dried up, especially in the past seven periods. Dating to the third period against Montreal, when Tampa Bay blew a two-goal lead, the Lightning have generated a total of 33 shots on goal.
While they were able to get away with it in Tuesday’s victory at Florida, the lack of scoring chances caught up to them Thursday. Tampa Bay was shut out for the first time since Feb. 14, 2012, in a 4-0 home loss to Ottawa.
“We are creating some chances, but we are not finding the back of the net,” forward Ryan Malone said. “We have to make sure we are just focusing on making sure two guys are not doing the same job and not covering the same ice, and we definitely need to generate more shots and more havoc in front of the other goaltender.”
It’s increasingly frustrating to have this happen when the goaltending, which has been shaky at times during Tampa Bay’s 5-14-1 stretch over the past 20 games, has been holding up well. And defensively the team has regained some structure in its end, cutting down on scoring chances against.
This from a team that has had little trouble scoring goals this season, entering Thursday ranked second in the league averaging 3.39 goals per game.
“That has been the story of our year. We can’t get everything together on the same day, and it’s tough,” coach Guy Boucher said. “Some days we’ll score five goals but then we’ll have problems defensively. Or our goaltender is not having his best game and now our goaltending is playing really well — and he looks confident out there, looks calmer and in control.
“And if you would have told me before the game we would have needed one goal, I would have taken it. So it is frustrating.”
Tampa Bay was outshot 13-6 in a first period where neither team generated many quality scoring chances. And it wasn’t until the second when the scoreless tie was broken after Alex Killorn was called for a slashing penalty for knocking the stick out of the hands of Matt Martin at 9:55.
It didn’t take long for the Islanders, who own the league’s top road power play, to strike. Tavares found a deflected puck at the side of the net for a tap-in at 10:22.
It proved to be the only goal needed as the Lightning failed to convert on their two power-play chances and couldn’t find a rebound in front of net in the final minute before Boyes’ empty-netter.
“We just haven’t really clicked everything at the same time since the beginning of the year,” Purcell said. “Lindback did a really good job again tonight keeping us in it, our D is playing a lot better and we are getting clean entries into the zone and our breakouts are better, but our offense has gone a little stale.
“In order to do that we have to get more pucks to the net and create chaos.”