There wasn't much to quibble with the Islanders' play Tuesday night, an important kickoff to a four-game homestand against four quality opponents.
You could only quibble with the result. Stymied by Minnesota Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk through a dominating first period, the Islanders grabbed a lead but could not hang onto it through the third and fell in a shootout, 2-1.
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They gained a point to stay two ahead of the Penguins in the chase for home ice in the opening round of the playoffs, now just three weeks away.
"I think we deserved to win the game," said John Tavares, who wedged a rebound over Dubnyk's left pad for the Isles' only goal with 23.7 seconds left in the second period. "I thought we dictated the play. You just have to find a way to beat the goaltender when you have chances."
Tavares had eight of the Islanders' 38 shots on net and the Isles came out flying, pumping 11 shots on Dubnyk in the first six minutes of the game. The big Wild goaltender, starting his 33rd consecutive game, held the fort through the scoreless first.
In the second, Jaroslav Halak matched Dubnyk's excellence by stopping Jason Pominville with a full split and then stopping Marco Scandella a few seconds later. The puck dropped behind Halak on Scandella's shot, but the goaltender swept it underneath his own back to keep it out.
He didn't get quite the same luck in the third period. With 8:15 to go, Halak stopped Zach Parise in close. As Halak reached to cover the puck, Travis Hamonic turned and unwittingly swept the puck back to Parise, who banged it into a yawning net to tie the score.
Parise had the lone goal of the shootout, on a shot that trickled through Halak and only went in when the goaltender dove back to try and keep it off the line.
"It's an unfortunate couple bounces on the goals," said Halak, who had a shutout span of 131:03 snapped by Parise's regulation goal. "I think we played a good game, we deserved the two points."
But instead the Islanders now have scored one goal in five of the last six games. They had a plethora of good scoring chances Tuesday night but, much like they found against the Senators' Andrew Hammond and the Canadiens' Carey Price, a hot goaltender was in their way.
"Look at who we've faced the last two weeks," Jack Capuano said. "And it doesn't get any easier on Thursday."
That's when Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings come to the Coliseum, the next big test for the Isles with eight games remaining. Each point inches them closer to a secured playoff berth, but inching along isn't what will give them momentum into the postseason.
"We got back to the way we were skating earlier this season," Kyle Okposo said. "We were pretty good in all facets. We have to keep playing our game and keep worrying about ourselves."