CALGARY, Alberta — The Islanders haven’t lost much with Doug Weight running the bench. But when they do lose, it isn’t pretty.
That was the case again Sunday afternoon as the Flames whipped home four goals in a 4:40 span late in the first period to turn a scoreless game into a rout. The 5-2 final wasn’t a total wipeout as the Isles showed a little life over the final two periods, but that was too late to do anything about what transpired in the first.
“Playing as many games as we have, traveling the way we have the hardest part is making sure we’re ready to go,” said John Tavares, who scored his 24th in the second to get the Islanders on the board. “We got off to a slow start today. We’ve got to find ways to stop the bleeding once we give up a goal or two.”
The Islanders still hold the final playoff slot in the East, one point ahead of the Maple Leafs, two ahead of the Panthers and three ahead of the Lightning and Flyers. They have lost only six times in regulation with Weight at the helm (13-6-3), all on the road. In the last five of those losses, the Islanders have allowed their opponents the first three goals.
And the final scores haven’t looked much like a team that’s trying to send a message that it will fight to the end. There was 3-0 in Ottawa on Feb. 11, 7-1 in Toronto on Feb. 14, 7-0 in Columbus on Feb. 25.
Weight chose to look at what his team has done after such losses — they’re 4-0-0 following the previous four defeats.
“If there is a pattern, we’ll come back and play a couple great ones after,” he said. “When you break it down today, it was a five-minute span that killed us. Just not smart decisions, either.”
Having come off back-to-back games in Dallas and Chicago with barely more than a night’s sleep here before a day game, Sunday was going to be a rough go regardless. Weight went with Thomas Greiss to start all three and Greiss was the sharpest Islander in keeping the game scoreless through nearly 15 minutes of the first, stopping the first 16 Flames shots he saw.
But Michael Frolik banked one off Greiss’ pads and in at 14:56 and the floodgates opened. TJ Brodie had another bank shot, this one off Greiss’ pad from behind the net, at 16:28; Micheal Ferland got the puck past three Islanders off the wall and snapped one past Greiss at 17:10 and Sean Monahan finished off a three-on-one with 23.3 seconds left in the first.
J-F Berube came on for Greiss in the second for mop-up detail, with the Islanders only getting within three on goals from Tavares and Jason Chimera in the final two periods.
“Just some uncharacteristic mistakes by our group,” Travis Hamonic said. “It’s hard to come back from 4-0 in this league, especially this time of year. Just put it behind us and move on to Edmonton.”
The Islanders are six games through this franchise-long nine-game swing and are 3-2-1 so far. Any losses from here on over the final 18 games will be difficult to overcome, but any more blowout defeats could be more deflating than usual, especially with the grind of playing the final 18 in a 33-day span.
“Yeah, you can say we’re a little tired today,” Weight said, “but that’s when you have to be really smart with the puck. We just weren’t at times.”