Miller, Point help Lightning hold off Islanders, 7-6
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By VIN A. CHERWOO
NEW YORK (AP) Although the Tampa Bay Lightning didn't like the way they almost gave up a four-goal lead in the third period, they were happy to get the win and move on.
J.T. Miller scored twice, Brayden Point had a goal and two assists, and the high-scoring Lightning held off the New York Islanders 7-6 on Thursday night, setting a franchise record with their 51st victory
"A win's a win but definitely not the way we want to win," forward Steven Stamkos said. "When you're in a game like we were tonight going into the third, it should be just close them out. Just don't give them a chance."
Anthony Cirelli, Mikhail Sergachev and Victor Hedman each added a goal and an assist, Tyler Johnson also scored as the Lightning won their third straight and improved to 12-2-1 in their last 15 games.
The Lightning extended their lead atop the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division to six points over idle Boston, which has played two fewer games and is 2-0 against Tampa Bay this season. The Lightning also pulled into a tie with West-leading Nashville, which lost to Toronto, in the race for the Presidents' Trophy - though the Predators also have two games in hand.
"This is a good hockey team," Stamkos said. "We've found a way to break a franchise record, that's pretty cool in itself. ... We'll continue to pile up the wins to finish as high as we can and whatever records are there, it's kind of icing on the cake."
Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 35 shots for his league-leading 42nd win, extending Tampa Bay's franchise record.
Anders Lee, Ryan Pulock and Anthony Beauvillier each scored twice for the Islanders, who lost for the 12th time in 14 games (2-8-4). Jordan Eberle had three assists, and John Tavares and Josh Bailey added two apiece. Christopher Gibson gave up six goals on 24 shots before being pulled with about 8 1/2 minutes left in the second. Jaroslav Halak came on and finished with 11 saves.
The Lightning led 3-1 after one period and appeared to take control with four goals on 10 shots in the second to extend their lead to 7-3. However, the Islanders scored three goals in a three-minute span to pull within one 4 1/2 minutes into the third.
"Coming out of the second intermission you want to see fight and hunger, you want to see battle," New York coach Doug Weight said. "We battled in the third. It was great to see the way some of the guys stepped up for sure."
Lee got his career-high 38th to pull the Islanders to 7-4 with their third power-play goal 1:35 into the third. It was his seventh goal in six games.
Beauvillier pulled New York within two, backhanding the puck through Vasilevskiy's five-hole for his 15th at 3:21. Beauvillier then deflected Johnny Boychuk's slap shot from the right point with his 16th at 4:36.
"We looked pretty good for two periods," Hedman said. "Obviously in the third period we were on our heels a little bit. We'll take the two points and get a good night's sleep tonight."
Point extended Tampa Bay's lead to 4-1 on a short-handed 2-on-1 break for his 28th at 2:43 of the second.
With the Islanders still on power play, Pulock got them within two just 47 seconds later.
Lee scored from the left side to pull New York to 4-3 at 5:15 of the middle period.
Miller gave the Lightning a two-goal lead on a 2-on-1 rush at 8:27 with Tampa Bay's league-leading 263rd goal of the season, breaking the franchise record set in 2014-15.
Sergachev made it 6-3 on the power play for his ninth with 8:38 remaining in the second, and Miller's power-play goal, his 20th, made it a four-goal game with 1:40 left.
The Lightning, who didn't travel to the New York area until earlier in the day because of the snowstorm in the northeast on Wednesday, got on the scoreboard with two quick goals to start the game.
Cirelli scored on a wraparound off Gibson's stick 2:09 into the first period, and Johnson made it 2-0 just 26 seconds later on a wrister from the right circle for his 21st.
The Islanders were on a 4-on-3 power play when Pulock fired a one-timer from the left faceoff dot to make it 2-1 with 9:36 remaining in the opening period.
Hedman restored the Lightning's two-goal lead from the left circle for his 14th with 5:43 to go in the first.
NOTES: The Lightning bested their previous mark for wins set in 2014 when they went 50-24-8 en route to reaching the Stanley Cup Final. ... Miller has seven goals and 12 points in 11 games since being acquired from the New York Rangers at the trade deadline. ... Tampa Bay's Yanni Gourde had two assists to give him 58 points, second among rookies - trailing only the Islanders' Mathew Barzal, who leads with 76. ... Barzal had an assist on Beauvillier's second goal for his 56th assist, breaking a tie with Nicklas Backstrom (2007-08) for the second-most by a rookie since 1995. Penguins star Sidney Crosby tops the list with 63 in 2005-06.
Lightning: At New Jersey on Saturday night.
Islanders: Host Chicago on Saturday night.
Follow Vin Cherwoo at https://twitter.com/VinCherwooAP
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Updated March 22, 2018