The coach has changed, the system has been simplified and the attitude has been revamped.
But the results remained the same.
While Monday’s massive shake-up may have provided a wake-up call and a fresh outlook, it did not elicit a win for the struggling Islanders.
The team dropped their 11th straight game, 4-2 to Tampa Bay Wednesday night, in front of a season-low crowd of 8,025 in interim coach Jack Capuano’s debut at Nassau Coliseum.
Although the team generated chanced aplenty—36 to be exact—they gave up 40 in their own end. Lightning forwards Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos and defenseman Brett Clark all finished with a goal and an assist apiece.
"It's obviously tough. You can't be giving up that many shots no matter who we're playing. Obviously [goaltender Dwayne Roloson] stood on his head once again and kept us in the game but we've been having that too much lately," Josh Bailey said. "It's time for the forwards to step up and steal the game rather than rely on the goalie to keep us in it."
Capuano’s first game as head coach came only two days after he replaced Scott Gordon, who took the fall for the Islanders’ troubling 10-game losing streak Monday morning.
In contrast to the heady, methodical style championed by his predecessor, Capuano seemed to eschew a more basic, instinctual approach to the former system. Labeled by his charges as a “player’s coach”, Capuano told them to have fun and play hockey.
"I felt confident about myself and the team that we have,” said Capuano, who became the 15th Islanders coach in franchise history Monday. “The result wasn't there but I felt pretty relaxed on the bench."
But with the different approach also came some growing pains, specifically in the team's defensive zone.
“We have some stuff to clean up in our zone, getting used to a new system. You go from one system to the other, you have to get out of the habit of the old way of doing things,” said Matt Moulson, who tallied the Islanders first goal of the game.
After Stamkos tallied a power-play goal with only 0.3 seconds to play in the first and Brett Clark scored on a redirect the next period, Moulson cut a 2-0 Lightning lead in half later in the second.
John Tavares also pulled the Islanders within a goal—with a backhander at 18:52 of the third—but former teammate Nate Thompson’s empty-net goal with 15.5 seconds in regulation sent the Islanders reeling for their 11th straight loss.
The team has not scored more than two goals in a game since a 5-3 loss to Montreal October 27.
“I’ve probably said it 38 times in the past four minutes, we’re not scoring,” said defenseman James Wisniewski, who leads the team with 14 points. “Something’s got to happen and then the floodgates will open.”
Until they do, however, the Islanders still find themselves mired in the same interminable slump that sealed their former coach’s fate.
“Obviously, we’ve got to find a way to win,” Tavares said. “I thought in a lot of areas we did good things. Hopefully, we can use that moving forward.”
Notes and Quotes: Mattias Ritola second-period charging major which came after crushing Moulson along the boards at 6:13 could earn the 23-year-old center supplementary discipline from the league. Replays revealed Ritola left his feet to send Moulson head-first into the boards. Tavares was given two minutes for roughing after pouncing on Ritola after the play.
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