UNIONDALE, N.Y. – New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano’s return from the hospital was an easy one—for more than 40 minutes.
Thanks to the final score, he didn’t even mind the tense finish.
David Ullstrom scored early in the third period to give the Islanders a big lead, and New York held off the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 Monday.
“I thought it was a total team effort,” Capuano said. “I give credit to our guys.”
Capuano returned to the Islanders and guided them to their first win of the season. He missed the opening-night loss to New Jersey on Saturday because of surgery to remove a kidney stone.
“I’m not going to lie to you. I was a little dehydrated behind there tonight at times but I was glad I could get back there,” Capuano said.
Michael Grabner, Matt Martin and Kyle Okposo scored in a 12-minute span of the second period to put the Islanders ahead 3-0. Ullstrom gave New York a four-goal lead 91 seconds into the final period.
Martin St. Louis, Benoit Pouliot and Steven Stamkos scored in a 5 1/2-minute stretch, pulling Tampa Bay within a goal with 12 minutes left. The Lightning couldn’t get anything else past Evgeni Nabokov, who stopped 23 of 26 shots.
“Nabby made some big saves,” Capuano said.
Anders Lindback allowed all four of New York’s goals on 44 shots.
For the first 40 minutes, New York was much tighter defensively than it was in the 2-1 loss to the Devils. The Islanders took away the middle of the ice, forcing the potent Lightning to the perimeter.
The clogging of the defensive zone allowed the Islanders to force mistakes. New York took advantage of those turnovers with goals by Grabner, Martin and Okposo.
“We got pucks to the net, bodies to the net, created some offence. Something we preached. I thought our ‘D’ did a good job activating. As far as our ‘D’ zone coverage goes, I thought we defended pretty well,” Capuano said.
Grabner opened the scoring 5:38 into the second period with a power-play goal. His first goal of the season also marked New York’s first lead of the season.
Martin and Okposo each scored in a 62-second span to make it 3-0. As Martin’s penalty for holding expired, John Tavares sprung him for a semi-breakaway and the New York forward snapped a shot past Lindback’s stickside at 16:23 to give the Islanders a 2-0 advantage.
Okposo then came down on a 2-on-1 and scored his first goal of the season.
“(We) made a few mistakes. We gave in a little too much, maybe, in the second period. That made the difference,” Tampa Bay centre Vincent Lecavalier said. “(The Islanders) played a good game. They moved the puck well. They played very well.”
Ullstrom’s off-wing goal 1:31 into the third grew the lead to 4-0 before the Lightning rallied.
St. Louis’ goal was his third in two games while Stamkos and Pouliot got their first. Stamkos scored 60 last season and has twice led the NHL in goals.
“We had a little bit of a lull there,” Tavares said of the 5 1/2-minute span. “But (we) found a way to turn it around and get back to doing some things we were doing well.”
Added Capuano: “This is the National Hockey League. There are great players in this league and no lead is safe. When you have St. Louis, Stamkos, (Ryan) Malone and go through some of their guys, you know they’re going to get chances. We contain them for 40 minutes. You’re not going to contain them for 60.”
NOTES: New York went 1 for 7 on the power play. Tampa Bay was 0 for 3 on the man advantage. … Lecavalier played his 1,000th NHL game. The No. 1 overall pick in the 1998 draft, Lecavalier has played his entire career with the Lightning. … The Lightning made a minor trade Monday morning, acquiring forward Jean-Francois Jacques from the Florida Panthers for future considerations. Jacques, 27, has played in 166 NHL games with the Edmonton Oilers and Anaheim Ducks. He had seven points (five goals and two assists) in 24 games with the Panthers’ AHL affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage.