Islanders' goal now is to avoid finishing last

New York Islanders' Josh Bailey (12) celebrates with New York Islanders' Josh Bailey (12) celebrates with PA Parenteau (15) after scoring against Montreal Canadiens goaltender Peter Budaj. (March 17, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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No team ever wants to embrace a rallying cry that's focused on avoiding last place in its conference, but the Islanders may be at the stage where they need to grab hold of whatever motivation remains.

After the Islanders snapped their five-game losing streak with a shootout win in Montreal Saturday night, coach Jack Capuano said he didn't find it necessary to point out the obvious to his players: that the team they faced that night represented their top competition to avoid the Eastern Conference basement.

"Guys know where we are in the standings," he said. "Players look."

How much avoiding that unwanted cellar spot will spur them during the rest of the season remains to be seen. The Islanders still are somewhat dizzied by how quickly they've fallen from being on the cusp of the playoffs to a race to avoid last place. That's the damage that a five-game losing streak can do at this time of year.

"Ten days ago we were in the race for the eighth playoff spot, and we just gave some games away," defenseman Mark Streit said. "We were in the lead, in charge of the games, and then sometimes we lost in the last minute or in OT, and all of a sudden you find yourself in the 15th spot in the Eastern Conference.

"We have a lot of pride here and a lot of character and we don't want to finish last."

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With their 3-2 shootout win Saturday night, the Islanders moved into a tie with the Canadiens with 69 points. The Islanders have 10 games remaining, one more than Montreal. Their next four games are on the road, beginning Tuesday in Toronto, and they're hoping for the same type of all-around aggressive play that they showed Saturday.

"We need to get that swagger back and that confidence that comes with winning games," said Josh Bailey, who scored the winning goal in the sixth round of the shootout. "We've just got to find ways to win."

Capuano spoke before the win over the Canadiens about wanting to see more consistency in his players' performance during each of their shifts, and he was happy with their response.

"Our guys had some push back to them and they kept coming," he said. "That's the one thing you like to see in your team."

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