There’s no time to let down for the Islanders now, especially back at home. Thursday night marked the second time they looked worn out in Brooklyn against a team headed for an early offseason.
The Islanders dropped a 4-2 decision to the Winnipeg Jets at Barclays Center, their second straight regulation loss at home after going 9-0-2 at Barclays Center with Doug Weight at the helm.
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More important, the loss dropped the Islanders a point behind the Maple Leafs for the Eastern Conference’s final wild-card playoff spot, with Toronto holding a game in hand.
“We looked like a tired team,” Weight said after a quick lead on Adam Pelech’s goal 38 seconds into the first period turned into a 4-1 deficit after two periods. “Mentally, we looked like a team that’s practiced three times in the last 25 days, to be honest. They were rolling off us. They were quicker to the puck.”
John Tavares rued the two golden chances he had to make it 2-0 early on a first-period power play. He had a pair of shots within seconds from the left circle with Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck screened and out of position.
“I shot the first one back into him and he got his pad on the second,” said Tavares, who had assisted Pelech on the opening goal. “I’ve got to put those in.”
The Islanders had jump early but that failed power play seemed to unplug them, much the way a few early struggles turned Monday’s game against the Hurricanes into an ugly rout.
The Islanders essentially have been in desperation mode since Weight took over on Jan. 17, which could explain the surprising number of lopsided defeats they’ve suffered. They’ve been outscored 46-18 in the nine regulation losses during Weight’s coaching tenure.
“It shouldn’t be an issue because we haven’t achieved anything yet,” Dennis Seidenberg said. “To stay in the race, you have to keep playing solid hockey. Too many times tonight we were sloppy.”
Bryan Little scored twice in the first period to put the Jets ahead by a goal, and the second period was as ugly a 20 minutes as the Islanders have played in a long while.
Mathieu Perreault gave Winnipeg a 3-1 lead at 3:24 of the second. The Jets had a fourth goal called back when a coach’s challenge by Weight for offside was successful at 10:29, but 62 seconds later, Adam Lowry swept his own rebound past Thomas Greiss after yet another failed zone exit by the Islanders.
“Sometimes it gets to 3-1 and everyone tries to do a little extra,” Weight said. “It can be a bit detrimental.”
Anders Lee scored 1:02 into the third and the building came to life a bit, but the Islanders could not get closer.
After the Maple Leafs’ 5-0 strafing of the Lightning in Tampa on Thursday night, the Isles remain tied with the Lightning at 77 points and 12 games remaining, with the Leafs at 78 points and 13 games to go.
The schedule does not let up, so the Islanders have to find a way to get back to their consistent level of a few weeks ago. They’re 4-5-1 in their last 10, not a recipe for reaching the postseason.
“We had a stretch where we were really consistent and now it’s a couple good ones and a couple bad ones,” Seidenberg said. “You can’t keep playing if you don’t get the consistency back. It’s too late in the year for that.”