UNIONDALE, N.Y. – Things are suddenly looking a whole lot better for Ryan Malone and the rest of the struggling Tampa Bay Lightning.
Mired in an 0-3-1 hole at the start of a six-game road trip, the Lightning bounced back with a pair of wins to return home with a positive attitude. Malone took care of things this time during a big third period.
Malone scored two power-play goals in the final frame to go along with a pair of assists on tying tallies in the second, lifting the Lightning to a 4-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Monday night. He has 18 goals this season, but had scored only once in his previous 13 games.
“I’m not really sure why, but you feel comfortable out there,” he said. “If you hit your spots, you have a good chance of the puck going in.”
Tampa Bay had been on an 0-5-2 road skid before winning at St. Louis on Friday.
Steven Stamkos and Vincent Lecavalier added second-period goals when the Lightning rallied twice. Stamkos, the No. 1 pick in the 2008 draft, has 21 goals this season. He scored for the fourth time in four games after going eight games without one. Mike Smith made 36 saves for his sixth win.
The Lightning went 2-for-4 on the power play and held the Islanders to only one goal in six advantages. Now they head back to Florida for a well-earned five-game homestand.
“The confidence is there,” Tampa Bay coach Rick Tocchet said. “It’s almost like a reassurance for our team that if you do the right things, we have a better chance of winning.
“Losing is contagious and winning is contagious. I am a big believer in being even keel.”
The Lightning, 15 points behind Southeast Division-leading Washington, won for just the third time in 13 games (3-8-2) and sent New York to its third consecutive loss – all at home. The Islanders have dropped nine of 13 overall.
“This was our chance to stockpile some points, but we’ve let them fall away,” New York defenceman Andy Sutton said. “You can’t get them back.”
New York has allowed 16 power-play goals on 35 chances in the past nine games. Compounding that problem are the struggles while on the advantage.
“Special teams, again. It’s kind of a broken record,” forward Nate Thompson said. “We just needed to bear down in the third period, the game’s tied. But we didn’t execute.”
Trent Hunter gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead in the first period with the team’s first power-play goal in 20 chances. Thompson made it 2-1 in the second when he broke a 61-game drought. Dwayne Roloson was sharp in making 24 saves.
He was the early star when he dived back into the net after the puck took a wild bounce off the boards behind him and came out in front. Roloson lunged to block Steve Downie’s attempt at a wide-open net with the shaft of his stick and then used his left skate to deny Todd Fedoruk’s try on the rebound.
A lengthy video replay confirmed that the puck didn’t cross the line.
Roloson wasn’t as fortunate 2:48 into the third when Malone got to a rebound of Stamkos’ shot in the slot and made it 3-2. Malone struck again with 8:21 left. Finishing off a three-way passing play with Martin St. Louis and Lecavalier, Malone knocked in his 18th goal.
Lecavalier got the Lightning even for the second time in the middle period, with a picture-perfect shot that Roloson likely never saw. Alex Tanguay fed a pass from the left corner into the circle to Lecavalier, who went down to a knee and snapped off a shot that zipped into the top right corner with 18.6 seconds left.
“I just shot it as quick as possible. I didn’t know it went in,” Lecavalier said. “It was a big goal. After that in the third, our power play really took over.”
The Islanders broke their power-play woes with 3:13 left in the first when Josh Bailey sent a crisp pass from behind the net in front to Hunter for a one-timed goal.
Thompson, who became the subject of a blooper moment when he shot wide of an empty net last week after New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist fell, looked every bit like a polished scorer when he ripped a shot from the left circle past Smith with 3:35 left in the second.
Stamkos had made it 1-1 at 6:20.
NOTES: It was Smith’s first victory since he beat the Islanders at home on Dec. 5. … Thompson’s previous goal was scored on Nov. 28, 2008, at Boston. … New York went four full games since its last power-play goal vs. Boston on Dec. 12. The Islanders finished 1-for-6 with the advantage. … The Lightning, with 71 points, and the Islanders, with 66, have the fewest points in the NHL since Jan. 1.