TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning won a big game but lost a key player.
Tyler Johnson and Jason Garrison scored 23 seconds apart midway through the third period and the Lightning beat the New York Islanders 7-4 on Friday night.
Tampa Bay defenceman Anton Stralman left in the first with a non-displaced fracture of the left fibula after getting checked by Anders Lee. Stralman will miss the rest of the regular season but coach Jon Cooper didn’t rule out a return at some point in the playoffs.
“Naturally, if anybody gets hurt, especially someone like Anton, it’s a stinger,” Cooper said. “But I’m not going to sit here and say, one of our defencemen got hurt that’s it, we’re mailing it in. No way. Stral would be the first one to tell you, boys, let’s go extend the season so I can comeback. That will be our goal.”
Copper said Stralman was rattled by the injury.
“Hopefully, it can heal quick,” Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos said. “It’s a tough bounce for our group right now, especially heading down the stretch and into the playoffs.”
Johnson had a go-ahead rebound goal at 10:09 before Garrison stopped a 26-game goal drought and put the Lightning up 6-4. Garrison also had two assists after going 18 games without a point.
Tampa Bay also got goals from Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov, Stamkos, Andrej Sustr and Victor Hedman, who had an empty-netter. Ondrej Palat had three assists.
The Lightning host Florida on Saturday night with first place in the Atlantic Division at stake as both teams have 91 points.
Brock Nelson, Shane Prince, Johnny Boychuk and Nikolav Kulemin scored for the Islanders. They remained a point behind third-place Pittsburgh in the Metropolitan Division.
“It’s embarrassing to give up seven goals at this time of year,” Islanders centre Frans Nielsen said. “It’s not a good feeling right now.”
Kulemin got the Islanders even at 4 just 19 seconds after Sustr scored for the Lightning at 6:02 of the third. Sustr stopped a 25-game drought.
Tampa Bay tied a team record for the two fastest goals and took a 2-1 lead when Kucherov (13:42) and Namestnikov (13:51) scored nine seconds apart in the first. Kucherov tied his career high with 29th goal on a nifty re-direction before Namestnikov beat Thomas Greiss from the low left circle.
Greiss made 35 saves.
“You’re not going to win many games in this league giving up seven goals,” Islanders captain John Tavaras said. “We battled back a few times. Obviously the back to back goals hurt us.”
Kucherov has a goal in four consecutive games. He was slowed in the third period after taking a shot off his foot.
After Stamkos scored his 35th goal on the rebound at 5:02 of the second, Prince got the Islanders within 3-2 just 23 seconds later.
Garrison assisted on Stamkos’ goal for his 100th career NHL assist.
Boychuk tied it at 3 from the blue line with 3:42 left in the second.
Nelson opened the scoring by beating Ben Bishop from the left circle at 8:54 of the first.
Bishop stopped 27 shots.
Lee had a power-play goal disallowed 1:19 into the game because of a referee’s whistle.
NOTES: Tampa Bay was again without injured RW Ryan Callahan (three games, lower body) and C Valtteri Filppula (five games, upper body). … Nelson has three goals and seven points in eight games against Tampa Bay. … Ryan Strome got his first assist in 18 games by assisting on Nelson’s goal.