Islanders lose season-ender to Columbus

Columbus Blue Jackets' Darryl Boyce, left, keeps the

Columbus Blue Jackets' Darryl Boyce, left, keeps the puck away from New York Islanders' Kyle Okposo during the second period of an NHL hockey game. (April 7, 2012) (Credit: AP)

COLUMBUS -- The Islanders ended their season Saturday night with a dismal 7-3 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Milan Jurcina, Kyle Okposo and Michael Grabner scored for the Islanders, who outshot Columbus 38-37 but gave up two power-play goals in 41 seconds late in the second period.

"Two power-play goals killed us after we got back into the game," coach Jack Capuano said. "It's not the way we wanted to end it tonight."

It was the most goals given up by the Islanders this season.

They wound up 34-37-11 with 79 points, which is a six-point improvement from last season and equals the point total from the 2009-10 season. But there are no playoffs again.

"There's no question that I feel we've made progress from when I first got here until now," Capuano said before the game. "I've seen the players really start to grow. When you're young, it takes a little bit of time. We have to learn how to win. We went through stretches where we cost ourselves some games."

Consistency was the biggest issue, as the team never won more than three games in a row. Even so, the Islanders were not eliminated from playoff contention until last week. Stretches of 2-10-4 from November to December and 2-5-3 in March were the difference between talking about the playoffs or what lottery pick they will receive in June.

"Our goal was to make the playoffs, and obviously that didn't happen," left winger Matt Moulson said. "We'll come back next season with that goal and figure out what's going to get us there."

Added Capuano, "[You] have to find a way to get eight to 10 more wins if you want to get to the postseason."

The team's 17-18-6 record at Nassau Coliseum was one of its biggest downfalls, Capuano said. The Isles ended the season 17-19-5 on the road.

Having the burden of playing in the Atlantic Division, with four 100-point teams, also gave the young Isles a tough road to the postseason.

"Our division is probably the best in the NHL," Isles captain Mark Streit said. "Teams like Pittsburgh, Philly, the Rangers and Devils are good teams and will be good teams for a while. It's a tough division for us, for the future, but it's a challenge, too. If you want to make the playoffs, you have to beat the best teams."

There have been plenty of positives for the Islanders this season. John Tavares has had a career year with 50 assists, which is the most by an Islander since 1994, along with 31 goals. Tavares averaged nearly a point per game and is the first Islander in 10 years to record more than 70 points.

"I feel every year I'm getting more and more comfortable," Tavares said. "I realize the things I have to keep working on and keep getting better at, and keep working on the things that I've been successful with."

Moulson notched his third straight 30-goal season with a team-high 36 goals and 33 assists. P.A. Parenteau racked up 18 goals and 49 assists before injuring his ankle Thursday against Winnipeg.

"You have to get the best out of your best players and they got the best out of themselves," Capuano said. "[Tavares] has done that all year for us and you have to give credit to Matty and P.A. and even Kyle [Okposo] when he's up on [the first line], too."

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