Islanders can't recover from slow start in loss to Leafs
It was more of the same from the Islanders on the ice Tuesday night, which meant more of the same downcast faces and puzzled looks in the dressing room afterward.
The Islanders cannot seem to figure themselves out so far this season. Their 5-2 loss to the Leafs, their fifth straight road loss, featured a quick breakdown to trail 22 seconds in, another power-play goal allowed and too much soft play in the defensive zone to give themselves a chance to rally.
"There's not a lot left to be said," Travis Hamonic said after the Islanders fell to 8-11-3, just two points out of last in the Metro Division. "We had a really good effort against Detroit [on Saturday night], and we come up here and ---- the bed. We're not reinventing the wheel here. We just have to go play."
They barely had time to do that, with Joffrey Lupul rushing end to end untouched barely a few seconds after the puck dropped.
Thomas Hickey backed in and gave Lupul a lane; he slid a pass back out front and former Islanders farmhand Trevor Smith beat Kevin Poulin at the 22-second mark.
The Islanders steadied themselves and generated chances off the rush, including two three-on-twos and one two-on-one that didn't produce a goal in the second.
On the first Leafs' power play of the game, Hamonic's clearing attempt hit a body just outside the Islanders' zone and Toronto turned back, quickly. Phil Kessel had tons of room to snap off a wrist shot past Poulin, the first of two goals for Kessel, and it was a demoralizing 2-0 deficit.
It was also the 19th power-play goal the Islanders have allowed in 67 chances, a 71.6 percentage that has them dead last on the penalty kill this season.
"Our D didn't move the puck," Jack Capuano said. "You'll make anybody look good when you give them that much time and space."
Casey Cizikas' solo effort brought the Islanders within 2-1 with 11.5 seconds left in the second, and the Isles began the third hunting for a tie. But Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Matt Carkner converged on a bouncing puck near the Islanders' line and neither corralled it, leaving Poulin to face two charging Leafs. Mason Raymond jammed in a rebound 3:39 into the third and that was essentially that.
"We got a big goal late in the second, and then we let ourselves down with mistakes," said John Tavares, who was held without a point in his hometown. "It's kind of the same story."
The Islanders will spend the next two days here before heading to Pittsburgh. There do not seem to be many quick fixes available; Thomas Vanek will return on Friday, but the main problems are in their own zone and with a defense corps that was manhandled at times.
"We've seen it, we've done it with this group so we know we can be successful," Matt Martin said. "We're supposed to be a group of guys that works hard, harder than other teams. We haven't done it often enough."