The Islanders did enough good things Saturday night to not only win but perhaps even believe they are headed in the right direction if their whole season didn't look so bleak.
But the time for moral victories and positive single points is long since past. The reality of a 1-0 loss to the Canadiens on Max Pacioretty's slam-dunk goal 1:51 into overtime is that the Islanders still are not doing enough to dig themselves out of last place in the Metro Division.
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They are 1-9-3 in their last 13 games, though the Islanders were not as good in their own zone in any of those 13 as they were Saturday night.
The Canadiens had only 23 shots on Evgeni Nabokov, in goal for the first time in a month, during a scoreless regulation, and the Islanders had a handful of odd-man rushes to try to beat Carey Price at the other end.
There still was something lacking, of course. The offense has had some decent moments while the defense struggled, but the reverse was true Saturday night. The Islanders are 0-16-4 when scoring two or fewer goals and now have been shut out three times in the last nine games.
"We're not getting enough good scoring chances," said John Tavares, who batted a rebound off the post in the first period, the closest the Islanders came to denting Price on 21 shots. "It was a better game than ones we've had, but the expectation is to win."
The Canadiens got that in overtime. David Desharnais picked off Thomas Hickey's pass behind his own net and circled the cage as the Canadiens changed. Pacioretty then drove past Aaron Ness to deposit Desharnais' pass behind Nabokov, the third consecutive home overtime loss for the Islanders.
As Tavares said, it was a better game than any of the five on a 1-4-0 road trip to the West Coast in which the Islanders eked out a shootout win and gave up 19 goals in the other four.
"The guys did a hell of a job in the D zone, around the net," said Nabokov, who came up with a big glove save on Andrei Markov with less than seven minutes to go in the third to keep it scoreless. "As individuals, we all have to be better."
Ryan Strome made his NHL debut for the Islanders. Although he played confidently on a line with fellow rookie Brock Nelson and Cal Clutterbuck and got plenty of power-play time, he wasn't able to help the team break through offensively. He chipped a puck out of his own zone in the second, starting a four-on-one break, but Brian Strait missed the net off Strome's drop pass.
"He'll learn you don't have the same time and space you have in the American [Hockey] League," Jack Capuano said, "but I thought he played well for us. He handled himself quite well away from the puck."
The Islanders finally will have a couple days of practice before hosting the Lightning on Tuesday, their first practices in a week. Perhaps they can put a full effort together rather than the jigsaw puzzles of the last six weeks, during which they are 3-14-3.
"It's all about being consistent in your whole game," Andrew MacDonald said. "We obviously haven't found that."