Islanders “Grab”ner a Win over Bolts

By on March 23, 2011

Tampa, Fl. (RSEN) – Michael Grabner, Zenon Konopka and the NY Islanders came to the St. Pete Times Forum Tuesday night to prove 14th place in the Eastern Conference does not indicate they are a dreadful hockey team.

Vincent Lecavalier (4) skates to the bench as Zenon Konopka (28) & the Islanders celebrate Matt Martin's goal in the second period. (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

“Z”, the Ex-Lightning and fan favorite, who started at center Tuesday night, won the opening draw and the Nassau County Gang took it to the Lightning from there.  Although Nate Thompson parked himself in front to get the party started early at 1:01. Thompson took a pass from Teddy Purcell and beat Isles goalie Al Montoya from the doorstep.  1-0; Lightning and the venue formally known as the Ice Palace was a-buzz with 14,700.

After a Marty St. Louis tripping penalty at 8:32 the Isles took over from there.  At 10:22 New York tied the score when center Josh Bailey redirected in a Milan Jurcina shot from the point. The power play tally was Bailey’s 11th light of the season. The teams would head to the locker room after 20 minutes tied on the scoreboard, with the Isles outshooting the Bolts 11-9.

In the second it was the Islanders that came out like the club playing for playoff seeding.  At 5:16 that impulsive defenseman Milan Jarcina was at again in the helper category,  as alternate captain Kyle Okposo felt it necessary to get on the score-sheet with his 5th goal of the season.   2-1 Islanders…  What!  The Bolts behind the 14th place NY Islanders!  Then at 13:39 Islanders forward Matt Martin took a smooth pass from defenseman Jack Hillen, split the Lightning defense pair and snapped a wrister past Lightning netminder Dwayne Roloson.  Zenon Konopka would pick up the other assist for advancing the puck out of the defensive zone to Hillen.  3-1 Islanders and concern settled in the air thought-out the arena.

The third started off right where the Bolts wanted when Pa Parenteau took an interference call in his defensive zone at 0:52.  Coach Boucher comes out with Vinny Lecavalier, Simon Gagne and Brett Clark up front and Marty St. Louis, Steven Stamkos at the points.  After Lecavalier has an apparent draw win, the lightning quick (no puns here, well maybe) Michael Grabner made a heads up play of anticipation, possessed and dumped the biscuit out of the zone.  The Bolts could get nothing going, power play over while the mighty 14th place Islanders flex their muscles.

What seemed like the Isle on the cake at 8:08, an unassisted, short-handed blast from outside left circle by Frans Nielsen.  4 -1 Islanders.

At 9:02, a four minute high-sticking call on Radek Martinek,  with Blake Comeau already in the box for high-sticking, gives the blue and black clad Bolts a 5 on 3. If you were there you could sense a confident wave pass through the venue… you know the one, the former Ice Palace, now the St. Pete Times Forum.  The 5 on 3 was, well, somewhat uneventful with that Long Island club killing it with Al Montoya positioned well.  The Comeau penalty was killed but with Martinek still in the sinbin…Resonate!  Dominic “Resonate” Moore (RSEN’s nickname) lights the light at 10:31 from Nate Thompson and Sean Bergenheim.  The power play goal was Moore’s 14th of the season. 4-2 Bolts; making a comeback with plenty of ticks left on the clock.

Down by two goals at 13:36, the line of Adam Hall, Randy Jones and Dana Tyrell working hard in front of Montoya draw a John Tavares high stick.  Tavares got the lumber, uh, graphite or whatever; you get the point, up on Hall.  It was another power play for the Bolts which the Islanders kill it off almost effortlessly.  All in all the Lightning was on the power play for 10:54 and were only 1 for 7.  The Islanders took 18 penalty minutes in the game, 16 in the 3rd period alone.  And that’s with, Zenon Konopka who leads the NHL in penalty minutes with 243, not tallying any sinbin time in this game.  

Still light at the end, Dwayne Roloson stones Michael Grabner just inside 5 minutes to go keeping the margin at two goals.  Grabner and Nielsen played give and go 2 on 0 with when Grabner ripped a shot that Roloson saved.  Still down by only two there was still optimism for Lightning fans.

With just 1:36 left in regulation, Milan Jurcina is sent away for hooking, power play Bolts.  With Roloson on the bench for the extra attacker the Lightning would put pressure on Montoya.  That speedy, annoying Michael Grabner would steal the puck in the neutral zone and score a short-handed, empty netter to ice the win 5-2.

After the game Konopka said of the Isles’ play, “I have been trying to push the young guys to be cocky and play with a chip on their shoulders and you can see it tonight and they did, that’s what you need to do to win.”  I asked Zenon if his start tonight was a Tampa specific thing, he said, “Early on (in the season) I started but it I think it was more of a Tampa specific thing, and once every eight or nine game I get a start to win the draw, that is one thing with our coach, our team, we have each other’s  back all the time and that’s another demonstration of you know these guys have my back and start me against this team (Tampa) which is important to me.”

Marty St. Louis was dejected after the game with the team’s effort and said, “It’s lead by example right now… We lead the way (himself, Vinny and Stammer), you know, usually when we lead, people follow and it goes good, so do I take responsibility for what’s going on lately?  Absolutely!  Is it demanding mentally?  yea it is, but it’s being a professional athlete and be demanding and want it more.  I guess and I know the guys in here want more and want to make a difference.  We are going to keep working until we get what we want.”  That is just typical St. Louis taking the high road and accepting responsibility, not only a sports role model but in life as well.

Coach Boucher said afterwards, “Just a total lack of structure.”  When asked if it was time to panic, the stoic coach said, “I never panic.”  When ask if it was time to worry, coach said, “I always worry.”  When asked if he was looking for someone to create a spark, Boucher commented, “I’m looking for everyone to create a spark.”

With nine games left the Bolts are clinging to the 5th spot in the Eastern Conference with a death grip,  just three points behind Pittsburgh.  Since it’s the 4-5 scenario which is crucial in that right now the Bolts would face the Pens in the first round with the caveat that #4 gets home ice.

For more Bolts coverage plus other sports listen to RSEN on the radio, ESPN 1040am Tampa Bay, Saturdays 10am – 12 noon.

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