For a goal-starved team waiting to feast, Hurricanes rookie goaltender Justin Peters must have been a tantalizing sight.
But the Islanders' anemic offense was no match for Peters' 34-save NHL debut last night at Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders dropped a season-worst seventh straight game with a 3-1 loss to Carolina.
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Their punchless power play also came up short for the fifth straight game (0-for-19 during that span) after five failed attempts last night.
How bad does the team need a victory right now?
"About as bad as you could possibly need a win," said goaltender Rick DiPietro, who made 22 saves. "We need a spark, something to turn it around."
But the Islanders weren't the first team to fire. The Hurricanes' Jussi Jokinen scored his 20th goal of the season at 14:32 of the first period, tipping in a puck that bounced first off Andy Sutton's skate, then DiPietro's stick.
But their elation subsided quickly when the goal was waved off; the play was ruled dead before the puck crossed the goal line.
"We shouldn't have to play a perfect game to win, but that's the way it feels right now," coach Scott Gordon said.
But the Islanders tied the score later in the second period - on a shorthanded goal, no less.
Blake Comeau's aggressive forechecking and pursuit allowed him to snatch the puck from Hurricanes defenseman Joni Pitkanen along the boards and dish to the slot, where Frans Nielsen's surgical strike served as the equalizer at 9:25.
With a minute to play in the third period and DiPietro heading toward the bench, the Islanders turned the puck over. DiPietro couldn't scramble back fast enough to prevent Pitkanen from putting the puck in an empty net for insurance.
Indicative of the Islanders' snowballing scoring troubles, Tavares has gone 10 straight games without a goal. Although the 2009 No. 1 overall draft pick sizzled throughout the first half of the season, he has only six points - two goals and four assists - in the past 26 games.
Tavares had 15 goals in the first 31 games and was on pace for a 32-goal, 54-point season at the midway point before losing - at least for now - his ability to find the back of the net.
"We needed more life, more urgency," Tavares said of last night's performance.
With four games remaining before the Olympic break, victories become even more important for a team on the outskirts of playoff contention.
"It's huge," Moulson said. "This could basically determine the season these next couple of games."