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PHILADELPHIA — The Islanders wanted to kick off the second half of the season with more consistency, more effort and more goals than during an up-and-down first half.
There only consistency on Saturday afternoon was sluggishness, right from the first minute through the last. There wasn’t a ton of effort. And there were no goals on just 20 shots on Flyers goaltender Steve Mason in a 4-0 loss that was as lifeless an outing as the Isles have had this season.
The Isles have now lost three of the last four, all three losses coming in the Metro Division and all by at least three goals. Jaroslav Halak kept the Isles in the game with 11 first-period saves, but he wilted along with the rest of his teammates over the rest of the afternoon at Wells Fargo Center.
“If you don’t feel your best, you’ve got to be able to put forth a better effort than we did today,” said Kyle Okposo, who was ill but still played. “If everybody’s feeling lousy, we’ve got to be really good structurally. We were just ho-hum today, we just weren’t all there. It hurt us.”
They were already shorthanded to begin Saturday’s game, with Travis Hamonic (lower body, day-to-day) joining Johnny Boychuk (upper body, 3-5 more weeks) on the shelf. That left a young, inexperienced defense on the ice that did some good things but didn’t do much to get the transition game going.
“Our D was real sluggish moving the puck up to our forwards,” coach Jack Capuano said. “We didn’t look the way we normally play.”
John Tavares had another frustrating day, held scoreless like every other Islander while getting just one shot on Mason. He was in a good spot defensively early in the second but didn’t turn to see Michael Raffl cutting down the slot to snap Sean Couturier’s pass behind Halak at 1:27 to open the scoring.
“The last two games it’s been really disappointing the way we’ve started and a lot of that’s my fault,” the captain said. “Being the leader of the team I’ve got to make sure we’re ready to play and I’ve got to be better as well. A lot of that blame falls on my shoulders. Putting ourselves behind by two goals, it takes a lot of energy to work to get back into games and we didn’t have it today.”
Evgeni Medvedev scored during a four-on-four situation at 8:33 of the second, charging down from the point on a busted coverage to beat Halak. Matt Read and Radko Gudas added third-period goals that rubbed some salt into the Isles, who fell behind 5-0 to the Penguins and 2-0 to the Caps in their two previous losses.
Capuano only has Steve Bernier as a spare forward to try and shuffle some of his struggling players awake. Ryan Strome (no goals in 16 games) struggled again, though no one really came away from Saturday blameless.
“We’re going to have to sit down and talk about it going into the Columbus game [Tuesday], because with some of the guys we have it’s not working right now,” Capuano said.