There was energy, there was passion and there was desperation in the Islanders' play last night. The Rangers' presence at the Coliseum seemed to ignite the Islanders in a way they hadn't lit up in a long while.
But there was something that stayed the same from their malaise of the last month: a loss.
The Isles are 1-7-3 in their last 11 games and 4-8-3 overall.
"We did some good things," P.A. Parenteau said, "but that's not enough, just doing some good things. We're 4-8 now; it's unacceptable. The will to win is there, the effort is there, but right now, that's not enough. And we've got to figure this thing out."
The Islanders needed most of the first period to get the time-zone change out of their legs and managed a 1-1 tie after a period in which they were outshot 14-5. Sean Avery's goal with 5:17 left in the first was answered 2:23 later by the Isles' Frans Nielsen.
The tide turned in the second, when Mike Mottau challenged Avery to a fight for a second time, this one as they both stepped out of the penalty box following a failed fight attempt late in the first.
Mottau's rare tussle, plus a parade of Rangers to the penalty box, gave the Isles the advantage, though it produced no goals through three power plays and a 2-1 lead for the Rangers when Marty Reasoner and Bailey failed to seal up the slot and left room for Steve Eminger to jump off the point and bury a pass from Ryan Callahan for his first goal of the season.
The Islanders killed off three Rangers power plays late in the second, including a 90-second 5-on-3 advantage. Goaltenders Evgeni Nabokov (26 saves) and Henrik Lundqvist (31) both had some brilliant moments, and the kills helped get the Isles a chance to rally in the third.
"We sacrificed ourselves on that 5-on-3," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "We paid the price this game."
On their fifth and final power play of the night, John Tavares threaded a pass through the crease that Matt Moulson jammed home, tying the score at 2 with 13:02 to play. The pretty evenly split, sellout crowd boomed out competing "Let's go" chants and the bodies and shots were flying around the ice.
But the main trouble the Islanders had all night, an inability to get possession in their own zone -- it's been a problem all season -- ended up costing them.
After Richards put the Rangers up 3-2, the Isles' Andrew MacDonald whipped a feed from Blake Comeau off the post with 1:18 left. Lundqvist then stopped Tavares in close in the final seconds before Callahan's final-second empty-netter sealed it.
If the last 10 games hadn't happened, this could have been a game to feel somewhat proud of for the Islanders. Instead, it's another game without points, keeping them seven points behind the eighth-place Bruins in the Eastern Conference.
"That's how we have to play and what we expect from ourselves every night," MacDonald said. "We know if we play the way we did tonight, the wins will come. We just need them to come quick."