The Islanders insist this is not starting to feel like last season, when a good start was negated by a two-month malaise of close losses and bad breaks.
After a 3-2 overtime loss to the Sharks Saturday night in which Jack Capuano and many of his players agreed that the Islanders had played their most complete game of the season, it's hard not to harken back to the indignities of last season, when no one would give the team the benefit of the doubt.
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Travis Hamonic was sent off 29 seconds into overtime for delay of game, with all four officials on the ice saying his clearing attempt went straight over the boards. All it took was one replay to show that Hamonic's pass clipped the glass about a foot from the top and wobbled into the timekeeper's bench.
Just 38 seconds into the four-on-three, Brent Burns ripped a shot past Rick DiPietro to leave the Islanders winless in their last five (0-3-2) and fuming over a blown call that helped clinch the extra point for San Jose.
"It definitely hit the glass," said DiPietro, who made 27 saves and overcame a helpless feeling on Joe Pavelski's power-play goal 17 seconds into the game to have a solid night in his first start of the season. "It looked pretty clear."
The Islanders clearly were the better team for long stretches of regulation, pumping a season-high 37 shots on net and converting two second-period power plays. John Tavares scored off a rebound for his team-high seventh of the year 3:15 into the second and Michael Grabner redirected a pretty, no-look feed from Kyle Okposo on the rush at 11:28.
But the Isles, as Capuano put it, were playing with "urgency and energy from top to bottom." Blake Comeau had five shots on goal after hitting the net once in his first six games combined; his line, with Josh Bailey and Brian Rolston, was in sync, probably for the first time all season.
The Islanders killed two third-period power plays, including one after Okposo committed an overzealous elbowing penalty with 3:27 left. Marty Reasoner, who won 14 of 17 faceoffs, keyed the late kill and the Isles felt good going into OT.
Until the officials missed Hamonic's clearing attempt, that is. Referees Eric Furlatt and Mike Hasenfratz and linesmen Jonny Murray and Matt MacPherson huddled, then agreed on the delay-of-game call. Assistant coach Doug Weight was the most heated on the bench after the game, and several players informed the officials after Burns' goal that they would regret the call as soon as they reached their dressing room.
"Those are the bounces you have to overcome," Grabner said. "It's still early in the season. Hopefully, we start to get some of those go our way soon."
Capuano was calm as ever, choosing to look at what the Isles accomplished rather than what was taken away.
"That's probably one of the best games we played all year," Capuano said. "You've got to take some positives out of it. All four lines generated offense, our D was outstanding and I thought Ricky played really well."