It was a perfect storm of awfulness, no pun intended about what sort of weather we’ll all wake up to Tuesday.
The Islanders returned home after a nine-game sojourn, and out came the descriptive words after a truly ugly 8-4 loss to the lottery-bound Hurricanes. The loss kept the Isles a point behind the Maple Leafs for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and allowed the Lightning to pull even at 75 points.
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“It’s an embarrassment — to myself, my teammates,” said J-F Berube, who made his first start in goal since Feb. 19 and promptly was benched midway through the second after allowing four goals on 13 shots.
“These are huge points for us and right now, for some reason . . . I felt ready before the game, but once I stepped on the ice, I couldn’t find my game, my rhythm.”
“We were outplayed by a team that looked hungrier and, no offense to them, had no reason to be,” Thomas Hickey said. “I understand the fans’ frustration. You can walk out of the building and ask yourself if the Islanders deserved to win the game. The answer is obviously no.”
Wary of the dreaded first home game after a long trip, the Islanders started Monday night’s game pretty well and took a 1-0 lead on Ryan Strome’s deflected shot past Cam Ward.
“The first seven minutes, I thought we were gonna win the game 8-0,” Doug Weight said. “We were moving our feet, skating, we looked like we hadn’t missed a beat. The last 53 was an about-face.”
Carolina pounced for two goals in 26 seconds to grab the lead. The Islanders pounced back on goals by Stephen Gionta and Calvin de Haan for a 3-2 lead 2:43 into the second. Then the smoke started pouring from the engine.
Justin Faulk scored the first of his two from the high slot, beating a very stationary Berube at 6:51. Jeff Skinner scored the first of his two at 8:02, a change-up wrist shot that trickled between Berube’s legs and, after a long pause, prompted Weight to call on Thomas Greiss, who had started all nine games of the road trip that just ended.
Faulk greeted Greiss with a stoppable wrist shot that eluded the goaltender to make it 5-3 at 8:58. Then second-year defenseman Jaccob Slavin, who entered the night with four career goals, scored the second of his three goals shorthanded at 11:45.
Those were the first two shots Greiss faced. “I feel fine,” he said when asked if fatigue has bothered him. “You jump up, try to do your best — it wasn’t good enough. Just have to be better.”
Skinner scored on a pretty penalty-shot move in the third and Slavin finished off his improbable hat trick. Josh Ho-Sang had a goal and assist in his first home game as an Islander, but that was their only bright spot.
Weight resisted the chance to pin this one on his goaltenders, particularly Berube, who has been sharp only in small bursts since Jaroslav Halak was sent to Bridgeport on Dec. 31. Halak did not join the Isles for their quick turnaround to Raleigh on Tuesday.
“We have a lot of pride in the guys back there,” Hickey said of the goaltenders. “It’d be a disgrace to pin this one on them.”
“I don’t know if we were worse with or without the puck in the neutral zone tonight,” Weight said, adding that he didn’t know of any decisions to add Halak. “I’m only thinking about what I just saw, and that was 20 guys who played poorly.”