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Islanders 4, Lightning 2

The SportsXchange

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Matt Martin's goal with 6:26 to play Saturday night snapped a tie and lifted the streaking New York Islanders to a 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning at Nassau Coliseum.

Martin was being pursued by Tyler Johnson, who knocked Martin over just as he shot, and was shielded by Radko Gudas, but Martin still managed to fire the puck past Ben Bishop from the left faceoff circle.

Michael Grabner, Josh Bailey and Andrew MacDonald also scored for the Islanders (19-16-4), who won for the sixth time in their last eight games and ensured they would remain in the top eight in the Eastern Conference as they pursue the franchise's first playoff berth since the 2006-07 season.

The Islanders entered the day tied for seventh with the Rangers at 40 points apiece, one point ahead of the Devils and two ahead of the Capitals.

Richard Panik and Matt Carle scored for the Lightning (16-19-2), which had its already slim playoff hopes further dimmed. The Lightning is now eight points behind the Islanders.

Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov made 19 saves while Bishop made 24 for the Lightning.

Martin's goal capped a taut, back-and-forth game in which the teams were never separated by more than one goal until MacDonald's empty-netter from the Islanders' own faceoff circle with 14 seconds left.

The Islanders took a 1-0 lead 14:45 into the first on a nifty unassisted goal by Grabner, who picked off a pass at the blue line and won a 1-on-2 battle by firing the puck over the shoulder of Bishop.

The Lightning tied it 4:44 into the second on a wrister by Panik, but Bailey put the Islanders ahead less than four minutes later when he took a pass in front of the goalmouth from Kyle Okposo, who was draped by two Lightning players, and poked it past Bishop.

Carle evened the score exactly four minutes into the third with a backhanded shot past Nabokov.

NOTES: Islanders winger Matt Moulson was inactive with the flu, bringing an end to his team-best streak of 284 games played. Moulson's streak was the third longest in franchise history. ... The other inactives for the Islanders were winger Eric Boulton, defenseman Matt Carkner and center Marty Reasoner. The Lightning scratched defenseman Victor Hedman and center Dana Tyrell. ... Winger Jesse Joensuu made his season debut for the Islanders. Joensuu had been on the Islanders' suspended list since the lockout ended because of a groin injury he suffered while playing overseas. ... The game was a homecoming for Lightning coach Jon Cooper, who went to college and played four years of lacrosse at Hofstra, located across the street from Nassau Coliseum. Cooper also played one season of club hockey for Hofstra, which doesn't play the sport at the NCAA level. ... Lightning center Steven Stamkos could become the first player in league history to lead the NHL in goals in consecutive seasons for a team that misses the playoffs. Stamkos, who had 60 goals last year, entered Saturday with 25 goals, two more than the Islanders' John Tavares. The Lightning entered Saturday in 14th place in the Eastern Conference, six points back of the eighth-place Rangers and Islanders.
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