Day-After Digest: Game 2 (Islanders 4, Lightning 3)

The Day-After Digest is a new series that will appear regularly after every Lightning game as part game recap, analysis and scouting report.

By Mike Gallimore

The Rundown

The Lightning mounted a furious comeback attempt, scoring three goals in less than six minutes, but ultimately found, not surprisingly, that their four-goal hole early in the third period proved insurmountable. Tampa Bay was outshot 44-26 for the game by New York, which frustrated the Lightning attack throughout much of the first two periods. As Tampa Bay began to press and the team's structure unraveled, the Islanders were able to generate multiple breakaways and odd-man rushes, of which all of New York's goals were the result of.

"We were opening up the game," coach Guy Boucher explained afterward. "We were trying to get the goal, getting impatient."

Martin St. Louis, Benoit Pouliot and Steven Stamkos, scored for the Lightning. It was St. Louis' third goal of the season while Pouliot and Stamkos, the reigning Rocket Richard trophy winner, both notched their first.

Anders Lindback, who made 40 saves in his second start with the team, might want the last two goals he gave up back but it's hard to find fault with his performance on a night where many of the shots he faced were quality scoring chances.

Pierre-Cedric Labrie, who was scratched along with Brendan Mikkelson and Dana Tyrell in Saturday night's season opener in Tampa, made his season debut in place of Marc-Andre Bergeron as Boucher opted for a full complement of forwards instead of dressing seven defensemen. Labrie and B.J. Crombeen both started the game alongside Vincent Lecavalier, who played his 1,000th game. After the initial puck drop, both Labrie and Crombeen dropped their gloves and engaged fellow toughs Joe Finley and Matt Martin, respectively, in simultaneous fights.

"We wanted to bring some emotion to start," Boucher said. "We didn't want to look horrible like we did last year."

Whatever energy the team received from the tactic, it didn't seem to matter much as the Lightning suffered from a familiar case of inconsistency as the game wore on.

Prospect Watch

Keith Aulie

  • Game Stats
    0 0 +1 0 0 13:47 0:33 0:00 14:20

  • Season Stats
    2 0 1 +1 1 0 11:51 0:23 0:00 12:15

Before the game, Boucher praised Aulie's performance against the Capitals after being asked to comment on his impressions of the young blueliner in comparison to last season.

"He played terrific," Boucher said. "What's really improved is [not just his] mobility but his handling the puck during his movements."

Against the Islanders, Aulie saw an increased workload. Though he skated just three more shifts than he did Saturday night, his total ice time was over four more minutes longer than in the season opener.

Boucher also commended Aulie's physicality, which was on display again yesterday, most notably late in the second period when he pinched and leveled Colin McDonald with a perfectly timed check after the New York winger received the puck and was attempting an outlet pass. McDonald took exception but wouldn't fight when challenged, although McDonald was able to goad Aulie into taking a post-whistle penalty after the play came back their way.

In the 23-year old, Boucher sees a budding defensive lynchpin "who's going to be extremely hard to play against" so long as Aulie develops as expected.

Cory Conacher

  • Game Stats
    0 2 +1 1 2 12:44 1:12 2:07 16:03

  • Season Stats
    2 1 3 +2 3 2 10:49 0:43 3:24 14:56

With a secondary helper and then a primary dish on the Lightning's first and third goals, Conacher, with four points in his first two NHL games, has burst onto the scene in a way that the even the club's stars he's thrilled to be skating alongside didn't.

Conacher had a mostly forgettable first two periods, though the same could probably be said for all of the Lightning forwards but, with Boucher, with his offense floundering, decided to mix up the lines and rookie's move alongside the Stamkos and St. Louis paid dividends as the trio's speed and combination of puck movement and retention, wreaked havoc in the New York's end during the third period.

Conacher was particularly at his best, displaying both tenacity and skill, on the Stamkos goal. On the play, he and St. Louis worked together in battle for puck possession along the boards behind the Islanders net and, after breaking loose and St. Louis managed to direct the puck to him, Conacher spied Stamkos in position at the opposite side of the crease and sent a quick tape-to-tape feed that was buried before Nabokov even had a chance to get his right leg across.

By the Numbers

  • Labrie played just 4:54 in the contest, skating a total of five shifts, including just one in the second. Twice he was caught on the ice, unable to get a change, for nearly two minutes. There was one particularly disastrous shift where the Islanders enjoyed extended zone time in the Lightning's end largely at the expense of Labrie, as he was outmuscled, outhustled and lost his edge and his man trying to defend. It would be interesting to know whether it was a factor in Boucher's decision to glue the young forward to the bench and, if so, how much, as obviously, down multiple goals, Boucher shortened the bench and he wasn't going to play much at that point anyway.
  • Kudos to the Lightning penalty killers, who didn't allow a goal on seven New York power play opportunities. The Lightning spent 10:56 shorthanded, including 1:16 down two men. Through two games, opposing teams are 1-for-11 with the man-advantage. It's an extremely small sample size, of course, but if the Lightning can escape shorthanded situations at around a 90% clip over the course of the season, it will be marked improvement over last season's 79.3% kill rate.
  • The Islanders, like the Capitals did in the season opener, hit double digits in shots during the first period but unlike Saturday night, the Lightning were unable to stifle opposing scoring chances as the game wore on as the Islanders put up 16 and then 18 shots over the final two periods. It was the defensive performance in the second period while the game was tied and close that was more egregious, though, as the Lightning were bound to give up chances deliberately opening up in the third period trying to get back into the game.

Best of Boucher

"We're a top team in the last two years in comebacks...we just needed to keep it tight until the third period and we didn't do that."

Looking Ahead

The Lightning (1-1-0, 2 PTS) face the Hurricanes (0-1-0, 0 PTS) Tuesday night in the second game of a back-to-back to complete their two-game road trip. Both teams split last season's six-game series between the two clubs although the Lightning won two of three matches in Raleigh. Carolina should be fresh since they will not have played since taking a 5-1 thumping from Florida on Saturday.

Carolina undertook a substantial make-over up front during the off-season , swapping Brandon Sutter for Jordan Staal in a deal with the Penguins and adding Alex Semin via free agency with the intent of bolstering its offensive profile. Semin's debut (0 PTS, 1 SOG, and 4 PIM in 23 minutes of ice-time) and the team managing just a single goal in the season opener might have been disappointing but the Hurricanes did manage 42 shots on goal. With Eric Staal, a healthy Jeff Skinner, Jussi Jokinen still in the fold, Jiri Tlusty looking to build upon a breakout campaign and former first-rounder Zach Boychuk being given a chance to stick in Sutter's place, Carolina appears unarguably deeper up front than it has been in seasons past. It's the extent of the depth and whether the team will see marginal or substantial gains that seem questionable.

After reversing course and jettisoning its prized free agent signing of 2011, Tomas Kaberle, to Montreal in the midst of last season, Carolina did well to keep pending UFA Tim Gleason. The Hurricanes defensive corps seems plenty capable, at least on paper, with reliable, if unspectacular, vets Joni Pitkanen and Jay Harrison, a now-seasoned Jamie McBain and last season's revelation, Justin Faulk, in the fold. Joe Corvo, who was signed in the off-season, doesn't strike fear into any opposing forwards, he wasn't brought back for his defensive game. Corvo put up 52 points in 116 games during his last stint in Carolina before his one-season detour in Boston. He'll see limited and protected even-strength assignments and serve to move the puck and provide offense from the back-end, especially on the power play. The extra wrinkle here is the presence of former first-round pick Bobby Sanguinetti, acquired from the Rangers in 2010, who made the team and played 16:10 the other night, including 4+ minutes spent on the power play. It will be interesting to see how he's used and develops as the season progresses, especially given how Carolina struck gold with the season they got out of then 19-year old Faulk in 2011-2012.

In goal, the discussion is simple. Cam Ward is, well, Cam Ward: a perennial workhorse who, despite getting chased out of the net Saturday night after allowing 4 goals on 12 shots, gives the Hurricanes a fighting chance in almost every game he plays. Ward has never been the problem in Carolina and there's no reason to expect a drop-off in the 28-year old's play this season. Remember Dan Ellis problems? Those are Carolina's now, although the former Lightning netminder probably won't see much action despite the condensed schedule as Carolina has bet large on a return to postseason play.