It took a mere 45 seconds for the Carolina Hurricanes to shut down the Islanders' momentum, a two-goal strike that drained almost two full periods of pleasant sensations and led to the Islanders' come-from-ahead 4-2 loss last night at Nassau Coliseum.
After consecutive victories on the road, the Islanders were fairly oozing with feel-good vibes as soon as the first puck was dropped, with first-period goals by Matt Moulson and John Tavares appearing to set up an encouraging season debut for goalie Kevin Poulin.
Through 16 minutes of the second period, the Islanders were relentlessly storming goalie Cam Ward, outshooting Carolina 14-1 in the period and threatening to expand what felt like a comfortable 2-0 lead.
Eric Staal batted in a waist-high deflection off defenseman Travis Hamonic's leg at 18:28. Then Staal's younger brother Jordan sneaked a long shot through Hamonic and Lubomir Visnovsky and past Poulin at 19:13.
Once Carolina had conjured the tie, whatever positive thinking had been at work for the Islanders through 38 minutes appeared to dry up. The Hurricanes completed the depressing turn of events for the Islanders, now 2-7-0 at home, with Bobby Sanguinetti's score, swatted over Poulin's glove, at 10:17 of the third. Alexander Semin added an empty-net goal with 29 seconds to go.
"Two points out of a playoff spot," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said, "and there was no emotion, no spirit in the room. We played all right, but we shouldn't have been up 2-0. Too many giveaways, and in the third they tilted the ice on us."
Since a five-game losing streak had Capuano feeling around for a discernible pulse midway through February, the Islanders had won four of six games. And the 22-year-old Poulin, who appeared in 16 games for the Islanders during the previous two seasons, made 24 saves and hinted, for 38 minutes, at being the solution for a solid alternative to well-used starter Evgeni Nabokov.
But in the end, the Islanders were sent off to boos from the 10,048 spectators -- the kind of treatment Rick DiPietro had gotten while going 0-3.
Moulson's 10th goal trickled past Ward only 4:38 into the game, and Tavares, who entered the game with a share of the league lead in goals, scored his 13th at 12:25 after Moulson sprung him down left wing on a two-on-one break.
Capuano contested the impression that his team skated energetically at the start, belying the fact that this was its fifth game in seven nights. Tavares wondered why the Islanders "don't seem to play with the same intensity and attention to detail" as they do away from home.
"We play well on the road," Capuano said, "then come back here, in front of your fans, who want to see passion, see good hockey . . . It's unacceptable."
Thus a seven-game home stand began with the Islanders suddenly not feeling, at the end of the night, as good as they might have.