After four straight home contests to start the season, the New York Islanders will get a stiff first road test when they travel to the Sunshine State for a back-to-back set this weekend.
The Islanders, who are 2-2-0 under new head coach Lane Lambert, will play their first road game on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, winners of the past three Eastern Conference championships.
The Lightning have only played one game on home ice so far, a 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. Tampa Bay earned a 3-2 overtime win on Friday against the Florida Panthers, who will play host to the Islanders on Sunday.
Last season, the Islanders turned in a middling 37-35-10 mark, enough for just 84 points and fifth place in the Metropolitan Division under the guidance of then-coach Barry Trotz.
New York missed the playoffs for the first time since 2017-18, and Trotz — who led the Washington Capitals to the Stanley Cup championship in 2017-18 — was relieved of his duties on May 9.
Lambert, 57, said he was discouraged by his team’s 4-1 loss to New Jersey on Thursday, a contest in which the Devils outshot the Islanders 13-3 in the first period and 43-17 overall.
“It was extremely, extremely disappointing because we had been trending up,” Lambert said. “We had done a lot of good things in the last couple of games. But tonight was a tough night for everyone.”
With New York trailing 3-0 and pushing on offense in the third, Anders Lee collected his second goal of the season on assists from Kyle Palmieri and Mathew Barzal. However, the Devils still held the upper hand 20-5 in shots during the final period.
Added Lambert: “I wasn’t happy with the compete level.”
Last season, Tampa Bay swept the three-game season series against the Islanders, outscoring them 14-6. In the regular-season finale on April 29, Steven Stamkos led a big third-period rally with his franchise-record 10th hat trick as the Lightning won 6-4 in Elmont, N.Y.
Stamkos has been sizzling to open the new season. He kept up that start on Friday in Sunrise, Fla., when the Lightning met the in-state rival Panthers for the first time since the visitors eliminated them in the Eastern Conference’s second round last postseason.
Stamkos notched a power-play goal in the first period to give him seven goals in his first five games of a season. That mark broke the franchise record for the first five games of a campaign, six goals by Chris Kontos in 1992-93.
After losing three of their first four games and playing the first game of a back-to-back set, the Lightning rebounded to tie the Panthers in the third period then won it in overtime — both goals courtesy of Brayden Point, giving him three so far. The deciding tally came on a power play.
“Tonight, we weren’t looking at the score (in the third),” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “It was, ‘Go out there and play the third with passion and heart and see what happens.’ I just liked our fight in the third. Regardless of how the score turned out, it was a step in the right direction.”
Point collected his 10th career overtime goal, leaving him tied for second with Martin St. Louis in Lightning history. Stamkos tops that list with 11.
–Field Level Media