The game opened with a pair of fights before a second had even ticked off the game clock.
It closed with a furious Tampa Bay Lightning rally that fell just short.
For a team that managed an Eastern Conference-worst 13 road wins (in 41 tries) last season during a full 82-game season, Monday afternoon's effort against the New York Islanders was all too familiar.
The Tampa Bay Lightning came out flat and were dominated through much of the first two and half periods against the Islanders, managing only 15 shots through 40 minutes of play.
The Islanders scored four consecutive goals to race out to a 4-0 lead. All four goals were scored on plays that began in the Islanders' own zone.
Michael Grabner opened the scoring on a partial breakaway. He was sprung by a stretch pass from Mark Streit that was fired from the Islander's own goal line; Grabner used his speed to get around Lightning defender Eric Brewer, draw a penalty which probably would have resulted in a penalty shot, and deposited the puck behind Lightning netminder Anders Lindback.
The second goal was scored on a similar defensive lapse; as two Lightning forwards pressed in on the offensive blue line, John Tavares dug the puck out along the half wall and launched a chip pass to a streaking Matt Martin who had just exited the penalty box. Martin skated in alone on Lindback and beat him clean with a hard wrist shot.
Kyle Okposo made it 3-0 on a play similar to Martin's goal; with Lightning players pinching in, the Islanders quickly moved the puck out of the zone and Okposo walked in alone on a 2-on-1 rush and fired a wrist shot that Lindback couldn't stop.
David Ullstrom seemingly put the game out of reach with an early 3rd period tally off a 3-on-2 rush that again began deep in the Islanders zone.
Transition defense and gap control during odd-man rushes will almost certainly be addressed by Guy Boucher and the rest of the Lightning coaching staff at the soonest possible opportunity.
On the bright side for the Lightning, the penalty kill was spectacular, killing all 7 of the Islanders' man advantage opportunities.
They also fought hard in the third period, scoring three consecutive goals to make things close. Newcomer Cory Conacher logged a pair of assists on goals by Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos. But with the score 4-3 and 12 minutes left of the clock, the Bolts were not able to solve Islanders goaltender Evegeni Nabokov again.
The Bolts will immediately get a chance to get the taste of their first loss of 2013 out of their mouths as they travel to Carolina to face the Hurricanes tomorrow evening at 7PM EST. While there is no official word yet, expect to see Mathieu Garon get the start despite an admirable performance by Anders Lindback, who allowed 4 goals on a ridiculous 44 shots.
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