RALEIGH, N.C. - Had the Islanders played from the start with the urgency they showed in the third period of last night's 4-1 loss to the Hurricanes, they would've had a good chance to leapfrog a few teams huddled in the middle of the Eastern Conference.
But they didn't.
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Instead, they began a four-game road trip by dropping their third straight against a Carolina team that is playing with a great deal of confidence.
"We didn't play with enough desperation," Islanders coach Scott Gordon said. "In the third period we did, but not the first two periods."
Josh Bailey confirmed that that was the message delivered by the seething coach. "Pretty much," he said. "They outplayed us tonight."
Down 2-0 in the third period, the Islanders showed the fight and mettle that has defined the hard-working team this season. Even after unleashing a barrage of 15 shots against Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward, however, the Islanders lost for the fourth time in five tries.
The Islanders drew a power play midway through the third period after feisty Jon Sim crashed the front of the net, but Stephane Yelle's shorthanded goal 21 seconds into the power play was the back-breaker. The puck bounced off defenseman Mark Streit's skate in the Islanders' zone and squirted through, allowing Yelle to score his first goal in 28 games. He lifted it past Rick DiPietro at 9:40.
"It hurt, obviously, but we needed to bounce back and we didn't," Bailey said. "We've got to score more than one goal a game anyway, so we can't blame it on that."
Jussi Jokinen scored an empty-netter at 19:15. In his fifth start of the season, DiPietro gave up three goals on 22 shots.
The Islanders' lone goal came from Matt Moulson, who became the first Islander in two seasons to reach the 20-goal plateau. Moulson spoiled Ward's shutout at 15:29, burying Frans Nielsen's backhanded feed.
Ward, who delivered a stellar 37-save performance the night before in a win over the Rangers, made 26 saves last night.
Despite a deceptively good even-strength performance by the Islanders in the first period, the Hurricanes scored two goals on their first eight shots.
Newly anointed captain Eric Staal had ample space down low to bury his own rebound at 9:19 for a power-play goal that gave Carolina a 1-0 lead.
Matt Cullen built on Carolina's lead with a wrist shot from the right circle that beat DiPietro at 12:12.
There was a dearth of offensive opportunities for both teams in a scoreless second period - Carolina outshot the Islanders 5-3 - and the Islanders couldn't cut into the Hurricanes' lead despite their first power play of the game.