The goals that flowed less than 48 hours earlier escaped the Islanders on Saturday afternoon. During the first 40 minutes, there simply was not enough of the push they had in the third period.
So the Islanders’ winning streak was snapped at two games in a 5-2 loss to the Flames — abetted by two empty-net goals — at UBS Arena.
“I really hate to lose,” said coach Patrick Roy, who is 3-3-1 since taking over for the fired Lane Lambert. “Especially in our building. I feel like we need to be a little more dominant at home than what we did. It’s playoff hockey and I love the fact that our guys were resilient. We had our chance to get back in that game.”
“It wasn’t our best,” said Brock Nelson, who brought the Islanders within 3-1 with a long-range shot through Matt Martin’s screen at 4:00 of the third period. “I wouldn’t say it was horrible but, for some reason, we found ourselves not really generating as much possession or offensive-zone time as we had maybe the last couple of weeks early. It was a little too late in the third when we started to find it.”
The Islanders (22-18-12) were coming off Thursday night’s 6-2 win over the visiting Lightning, their most complete effort of Roy’s short tenure.
“They defended pretty well,” said Kyle Palmieri, who had an apparent first-period equalizer overturned as the Flames successfully challenged that Pierre Engvall was offside. “They did a good job of clearing their net front.”
Semyon Varlamov, making the 600th appearance of his career, stopped 19 shots. Jacob Markstrom made 35 saves — including 16 in the third period — for the Flames (25-22-5), who have won four straight. Defenseman MacKenzie Weegar capped his hat trick with an empty-netter with 21.5 seconds remaining.
Too many of the Islanders’ chances, especially in the first two periods, came from the outside. “We were still able to put up over 35 shots,” defenseman Noah Dobson said. “More guys to the net sometimes. Keep it simple.”
Roy pulled Varlamov for an extra skater at 15:45 of the third period, but Blake Coleman’s empty-netter made it 4-1 at 15:59. Still skating six-on-five, Jean-Gabriel Pageau brought the Islanders within two again at 17:28 before Weegar finally clinched it.
“I like it,” Nelson said of Roy’s aggressive move. “To say we’re still going after it, I think, is huge. You’re not rolling over. For us, as players, it’s great.”
The Flames opened a three-goal lead in the second period as the Islanders struggled to generate a sustained attack.
Jonathan Huberdeau punched in a rebound from the left on the power play to make it 2-0 at 8:38 of the second period after defenseman Adam Pelech was called for tripping Martin Pospisil on the rush. It appeared Pelech successfully swept the puck off Pospisil’s stick first as he dived, but his stick did tangle with the right wing’s legs immediately after.
The NHL changed the rule in 2014 so that it is considered tripping even if the puck is touched first.
“The referees do their jobs,” Roy said. “I’m sure they have supervisors so they’ll make the decision. It’s too bad because it was a trigger moment. That was a key moment in the game because Bo [Horvat] missed a really good chance right before that to make it a 1-1 game.”
Weegar’s second goal, on a one-timer, pushed the Flames’ lead to 3-0 at 15:16 of the second period. He had opened the scoring at 3:47 of the first period with a knuckling wrist shot from the right circle that went under Varlamov’s blocker.