It’s about the on-ice connection with each other. The Islanders know it must be better in their final regular-season game against the Capitals.
"I think we’ve just got to focus on what we have to do and be more connected when we make our plays," Jean-Gabriel Pageau said. "When we play and trust each other, that’s when we’re at our best."
The teams will conclude a three-game series on Tuesday night in Washington after the Capitals’ 6-3 win at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday night. The Islanders, prone to turnovers and loose defensive play, plus some uncharacteristically shaky goaltending from Ilya Sorokin, were outscored 6-0 at even strength.
The Islanders also lost a 1-0 shootout to Washington at the Coliseum on Thursday night, and the Capitals enter the season series finale having won five of seven between the teams.
The Islanders are four points behind the East Division-leading Penguins, three behind the Capitals and three ahead of the fourth-place Bruins.
"Every game is crucial," coach Barry Trotz said after Saturday’s loss. "It doesn’t change anything. We’re going to go with hopefully a better game than we had tonight in Washington to win. I don’t look at any game more crucial than any other. Right now, it’s just been our game. We just didn’t have enough guys that were in our lineup that were going tonight."
A disconnect, in other words.
"There’s a lot of areas," Pageau said. "Sometimes it can be on the forecheck. It can be on the breakouts, on the faceoffs. It’s little details. At this time of the year, all the little details matter. When I mean disconnect, we were not in the right spots and they capitalized on their chances."
The Islanders have eight regular-season games left, including two against the Rangers. They also will play four games against the Devils and Sabres, the division’s also-rans, before ending the season in Boston on May 10.
In addition to the urgency of collecting points to try to finish in the division’s top two and secure home-ice advantage for at least the first round — the Islanders are 19-3-3 at the Coliseum — there’s also the need to improve their consistency heading into the playoffs.
"Oh, yeah, 100%," said Anthony Beauvillier, who had a power-play goal on Saturday, as did Pageau.
"I think we, as a group, have to regroup and go on the road and get points. We want to be better. That’s the beauty of hockey. We get to play these guys again next game so it’s going to be a good challenge for us and we’ll regroup as a team and be ready for that."
"This one,’’ Pageau said, "it’s important for us. We want to try and get as many points as we can before the end of the season. There’s not that many games left. It’s the last push and I know the guys are going to be ready to come out together. We have a solid group in here so I’m not that worried about the guys."