Ok, so perhaps it wasn't nearly as impressive as Team USA's Olympic stunner over the ridiculously talented Soviet squad in 1980. However, the Islanders did manage to defeat a very good Tampa Bay Lightning team for the first time in two years last night.
The Lightning have always had some sort of mystical hold on the Isles. Even the dreadful Tampa Bay clubs of the past have managed to stomp all over New York. Recently, the Lightning have just outright dominated the series. Martin St. Louis, in particular, has used these games to pump up his stats.
However, a corner may have been turned. New York turned in an inspired performance, outplaying the struggling Lightning in most facets of the game. True, they needed an outstanding Rick Dipietro in goal (as well as a couple of lucky goalposts) to do it, but shutting out Tampa Bay requires an entire team effort.
What was the reason for such a gritty, on-the-same-page response? Was it the occasion of Mike Sillinger's 1,000th contest and the team wanted to play well? Was it the upcoming one game return to coaching of Al Arbour that had them "jacked up"? Or were they simply tired of always losing to Vinny LeCavalier & Company and decided to take a stand?
Whatever the reason, the Islanders demonstrated that, when they're firing on all cylinders, they are a competitive team to be reckoned with. It is coach Ted Nolan's job to make sure that efforts like last night's are the norm and not just an anomaly.