Islanders fall to Canadiens, go 0-for-4 on road trip
MONTREAL - A new game, the same old set of issues, and another loss for the Islanders.
They got the power play fixed, scoring twice to snap an 0-for-24 drought. But the Isles' dismal penalty kill, which entered yesterday's game ranked last in the NHL, allowed two key goals in the final 3:46 of the second period in a 4-2 loss to the Canadiens.
It was the Islanders' fourth straight loss, sending them home from a weeklong road trip without a single point.
"Once those goals get going in, it's obviously frustrating," said Josh Bailey, who went without a point for a seventh straight game. "But being frustrated doesn't lead to better play. It's a fine line you've got to walk where you use it as motivation and not as something to hurt you."
Michael Grabner, Bailey's linemate for much of the game, returned from missing several minutes of the second period with a skate issue to make an alarming play that set the wheels of defeat in motion.
With the score even after an early second-period goal by Montreal's Brendan Gallagher and an answer on the power play by Montreal native Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Grabner corralled the puck near his blue line and, with no one around him, tried to flip it high off the glass. The puck went into the Bell Centre seats for a delay-of-game minor, and the Canadiens' third-ranked power play went to work.
Alex Galchenyuk snapped a seam pass through the penalty-kill box right to Lars Eller for a one-timer past Kevin Poulin, another Islander playing in his hometown, to put the Canadiens in front at 16:14.
Just 22 seconds later, Thomas Hickey had his stick lifted by Brian Gionta -- right into Gionta's nose for a seemingly unwarranted four-minute minor. The Isles killed off the first half, but rookie Michael Bournival deflected Raphael Diaz's shot past Poulin with 55.9 seconds left in the period for a two-goal deficit.
The Isles' penalty kill has allowed 16 goals in 59 times short, a 72.9 percent effectiveness rate.
"There's a few different areas. Faceoffs is a huge issue, our clears. Anything that anybody's doing is finding the back of the net," Jack Capuano said. "It can mentally drain on you, and that's a big part of it. If they score a goal, we have to forget about it."
John Tavares' feed caromed in off the skate of Brock Nelson -- who got first-line and power-play time in Thomas Vanek's absence -- at 4:10 of the third to bring the Isles within a goal. But the Grabner-Bailey-Frans Nielsen line didn't hustle back to contend with Gallagher, Galchenyuk and Eller, who combined for the clincher at 10:37 on a play that provided more evidence of the frustration setting in on the Isles.
"We've all been in this situation before," said Capuano, who refused to go negative after the loss. "We've got too much leadership, too much character on this team."
They returned home Sunday night in a familiar spot at this time of year. A horrific slide that started in November 2010 cost Scott Gordon his job; with Capuano behind the bench a year later, the Isles went 4-7-2 in November to fall out of the playoff race early.
Now they are 2-4-0 in November and watching as the teams around them in the Metropolitan Division gain points every night."The good thing is we've got a group of players and management who care about winning more than people realize," Bailey said. "We're going to get through this together."