It may not be panic time yet, but the Islanders should be seriously fretting about their play.
They were consistently slow getting back defensively. They left too much room around their crease. They got no help from their 0-for-3 power play. And it led to a 5-2 loss to the Flyers on Saturday before a sellout crowd of 13,917 on Bill Torrey Appreciation Night at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum, with plenty of alumni on hand to honor the bow-tied architect of the Islanders’ dynasty days.
“It’s adversity,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “We have another level of effort, commitment, all those intangible things. The answer is nowhere but our room. There’s no help from the outside. We weren’t good enough.”
It continued an alarming series of incomplete performances in the playoff push for the Islanders (39-22-7), who are two points behind the Capitals in the Metropolitan Division but are in a 4-5-1 rut that includes a 4-1 loss to the Flyers at the Coliseum last Sunday.
Thomas Greiss was pulled after allowing five goals on 15 shots in two periods. Brian Elliott made 25 saves for the Flyers (33-27-8).
“It happens,” Leo Komarov said. “It’s been a long season. We’re not really happy with what’s going on right now. We know we have a good team. I wouldn’t say we should be worried about anything. We just need to step up and play the same way we’ve been playing.”
The Islanders did show some pushback after losing defenseman Johnny Boychuk at 5:41 of the third period. Jakub Voracek, bracing for a hit, got Boychuk with a shoulder to his head and was given a five-minute interference penalty. With Boychuk still prone on the ice, Josh Bailey confronted Voracek, and defenseman Scott Mayfield and then Komarov went after Voracek later in the period.
The Islanders were coming off a home-and-home sweep of the NHL-worst Senators, though neither was a complete effort. The Islanders blew a two-goal lead in the third period of Tuesday’s 5-4 shootout win at the Coliseum and sagged in the second period of a 4-2 win at Ottawa on Thursday.
Their last full effort was an emotional 6-1 win over the Maple Leafs in John Tavares’ return to the Coliseum on Feb. 28.
“It’s not something we’re taking lightly,” captain Anders Lee said. “It is a rough patch. This one’s obviously awful. It stinks. But we have 14, 15 games left here to figure it out. And we’ll stick together in this room like we did when Johnny went down.”
The Flyers scored three goals in the second period after a defensive breakdown led to James van Riemsdyk’s goal off the rush with 3.1 seconds left in the first period for a 2-1 lead.
Sean Couturier made it 3-1 with a one-timer at 1:34 of the second as the Flyers beat the Islanders up ice. Nolan Patrick, behind rookie defenseman Devon Toews — he and Boychuk were on for three goals against — knocked in a rebound to make it 4-1 at 5:35, and Trotz used his timeout to angrily voice his displeasure.
The Islanders, tentative about shooting except for defenseman Ryan Pulock, could not convert on a five-on-three power play that lasted 94 seconds, and Travis Konecny made it 5-1 at 17:26 off another rush.
Mayfield scored his first goal in 48 games for a 1-0 lead at 6:30 of the first period, with Mathew Barzal notching his 100th career assist on the play. But Ryan Hartman, at the crease, tied it at 1-1 at 15:20 of the first.
Barzal got a second assist on Nick Leddy’s goal to make it 5-2 at 16:28 of the third period.