The Islanders say their confidence hasn't left them. But after Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Ducks -- their seventh straight defeat at the Coliseum -- the Isles went home having fallen out of second place in the Metro Division for the first time since Nov. 5.
"We're doing some decent things, but we're not all there," said Kyle Okposo, who was part of a failed five-on-three advantage for 1:54 in the second period that contributed to the Isles falling to 0-6-1 in their last seven at home and 1-6-1 in their last eight overall. "We're working hard trying to get out of it, but at some point, you have to get results out of these games."
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It was a familiar story in how the Islanders fell behind the Western Conference-leading Ducks and could not rally. A 1-1 game after a period turned into a 3-1 Anaheim lead after two despite four Islanders power plays in the middle period.
With the Isles trailing 2-1, Matt Beleskey tripped John Tavares at 10:16 of the second. Off the ensuing faceoff, the Ducks' Cam Fowler sent the puck over the boards for a delay of game and nearly a full two minutes of a two-man advantage.
Frederik Andersen denied Tavares and Ryan Strome within seconds of each other with sprawling stops, but otherwise, the two-man advantage was a dud. And barely three minutes after it expired to the boos of the sellout crowd, the Ducks' Andrew Cogliano broke in alone and beat Michal Neuvirth to further sag the Isles' spirits.
"We had goals in Jersey and against Minnesota here with a guy barely out of the penalty box, and we scored a power-play goal against L.A.,'' Frans Nielsen said. "So just today, the PP wasn't good. But we got to stay positive in here. We can't get down on ourselves. Now isn't the time to do that."
The fact remains, however, that the Isles' vaunted offense has stalled. When Casey Cizikas picked off Clayton Stoner's errant pass and beat Andersen with 5:36 left, it marked only the third time in the last eight games that the Isles beat an opposing goaltender twice in a game. Before this rut, the longest they had gone with two or fewer goals was three games.
Tavares was held without a point for the sixth time in the last eight games. Okposo has two points since his return from eye surgery eight games ago. Jack Capuano split up his two forward stars, but it didn't help either of them.
"Everyone has to find a way," Capuano said. "I'm sure there's some frustration among the boys. But as I told them, don't worry about anything you guys [the media] say; it's about us, our team. We had a goal at the start of the year and we're almost where we want to be. We just have to be a little bit better."
And it has to start Sunday, with the Red Wings in for a late afternoon game that marks the seventh consecutive Coliseum visit from a team in the top eight of either conference. That perhaps makes these close losses sting more, as the Islanders will have to face one of these high-performing clubs when they reach the postseason -- if they get there.
The Bruins are only six points behind the Isles in eighth, with one game in hand. There is no more waiting to get hot, even if the words were relatively upbeat.
"I know we're going to come out of it," Nielsen said. "It's tough now, but that will make it so much more fun when we get out of it. We got to embrace the pain right now and hopefully it sets us up for a long playoff run."