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New York Islanders

Varlamov Strong, Islanders Not So Much In Loss To Lightning

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AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

The New York Islanders can have whoever they want starting in goal, but it won’t matter if they fail to support them.

Despite another solid start from Semyon Varlamov on Saturday night, the Islanders surrendered four unanswered goals to the Tampa Bay Lightning as they fell 4-1 at Amalie Arena.

“He was outstanding,” Islanders head coach Patrick Roy said of Varlamov to reporters in Tampa Bay. “We gave up a lot of chances, and he made those big saves that kept us in the game.”

The Islanders jumped ahead at 2:24 of the first period when Kyle Palmieri’s shot from high along the half wall rattled through a maze of bodies in front of the net before taking a lucky bounce past Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy for the opening score.

Tampa Bay drew even at 14:24 of the frame when their league-leading power play made the most of an Adam Pelech tripping penalty via a goal from Darren Raddysh. Thirty-five seconds later, a lapse in defensive coverage by the Islanders left Anthony Cirelli with plenty of room in tight on Varlamov to put the Lightning ahead.

Leading 2-1 entering the intermission, the Lightning had more than quadrupled the amount of shot attempts as the Islanders, outpacing the visitors 30-7 after 20 minutes.

“What we did in that first period was we didn’t manage the puck well. We didn’t put it in deep,” said Roy. “That’s what we started doing in the second and the third, and that made a big difference. We need to manage the puck better if we want to match up with teams like that.”

Making his second straight start, Varlamov was steady once again, finishing the night with 36 saves on 39 shots. The Islanders couldn’t return the favor to their netminder, unable to put another puck past Vasilevskiy at the other end.

The Lightning’s advantage grew to 3-1 at the start of the third period when Steven Stamkos tipped in a shot from the point. To the naked eye, it appeared Stamkos used a high stick to deflect the puck, but a video review said otherwise.

“What’s tough, I think, for us in that situation is that it was called a goal to start with, so it’s got to be clear,” Anders Lee said to reporters in Tampa Bay. “It felt high from the get-go, but we can’t control what the initial call is or whether Toronto thought it was inconclusive or if they had an angle that really proved it. We get like a two-second shot at it on the jumbotron. So honestly, it’s tough for me to say, other than it felt high live.”

The goal was Stamkos’ 30th of the season, making it the ninth time the Lightning captain has reached the benchmark in his career.

Still trailing with over three minutes left to play, Roy pulled Varlamov to the bench for an extra attacker. The empty net left a wide-open target for Cirelli to score his second goal of the night.

With an assist on Cirelli’s second goal and the goal by Raddysh, Nikita Kucherov added two more points to his yearly total, giving him 125 as the Lightning collected its third straight victory.

The Islanders have now lost eight of their last 10 games and remain stagnant at 77 points, five back of the Philadelphia Flyers of the final wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Islanders conclude their road trip on Monday against the Flyers in Philadelphia, where a win won’t do as much to help their playoff chances as a loss will do to end them.

Puck drop from Wells Fargo Center is scheduled for 7 p.m. EST.

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