Lightning, Islanders plagued by inconsistency
NEW YORK — The Tampa Bay Lightning are unhappy with a recent stretch of inconsistent play. The New York Islanders might be borderline ecstatic to have the Lightning's problems.
A pair of teams feeling internal — and in the case of the Islanders, external — pressure to turn things around face off Monday night, when New York hosts the Lightning at Barclays Center.
Both clubs are coming off losses on Saturday night. The Lightning fell to the San Jose Sharks, 3-1, while the Islanders blew a two-goal third period lead and lost to the Florida Panthers, 3-2, in overtime.
The Lightning (8-6-1) have alternated wins with losses over the last six games (3-2-1), a stretch that comes on the heels of a four-game losing streak (0-4-0). Despite the up and down stretch, Tampa Bay is just two points behind third-place Ottawa in the Atlantic Division and tied with the Detroit Red Wings for the final wild card spot.
“We need to get some consistency in our game — we haven't seen that, we play good game, bad game,” Lightning center Steven Stamkos said following Saturday's defeat. “We just haven't put any good ones in a row.”
The Islanders (5-7-3) are having the same issues, albeit on a more serious scale. New York has won consecutive games just once this season and has lost seven of its last 10 (3-4-3).
The Islanders have either led or been tied in the third period in seven of their 10 losses. They gave up the game-tying goal with 13.6 seconds remaining in regulation on Saturday night.
With just 13 points this season, the Islanders are only one point ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes for last place in the Eastern Conference and in danger of falling out of the playoff race by Thanksgiving.
“Just got to focus on the positives right now,” Islanders head coach Jack Capuano said following Saturday's defeat. “When you're going through a stretch like this, the last thing you want to do is have negativity. There's enough negativity around, so we just want to have a singular focus, continue to concentrate and hopefully the breaks will come.”
A pair of No. 1 goaltenders are likely to be in net. Ben Bishop has started three of the last four games for the Lightning and took the loss on Saturday. Bishop earned the win over the Islanders in Tampa Bay last Thursday, when he stopped 26 shots in a 4-1 victory that improved his career record against New York to 6-4-1.
Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak has cemented his standing by starting the last six games. He was pulled for backup Thomas Greiss in the second period Thursday, when he stopped just 13 of 16 shots. The loss dropped Halak's record against the Lightning to 4-3-0.
The Lightning will be looking to sweep the season series from the Islanders, whom they also beat 6-1 on Nov. 1.