The Capitals swept a three-game series from the Islanders. That was bad enough. But the Islanders went all three games without scoring a goal five-on-five.
"It’s not easy losing to these guys," Casey Cizikas said. "We’re a proud group over here and we want to come out with two points every single time."
Instead, the East Division-leading Capitals, without the injured Alex Ovechkin for a second straight game, won, 1-0, on Tuesday night in Washington as the Islanders (29-15-5) have been held to one or fewer goals in five of their last seven games.
They are now five points behind the Capitals, four points behind the second-place Penguins and just one point ahead of the fourth-place Bruins, who have played one fewer game.
"We certainly haven’t played our best hockey," Matt Martin said. "When things aren’t going well, it seems like it’s harder to break through and get a win.
"I think last year, we proved how good a team we are, in the bubble," Martin added of the Islanders run to the Eastern Conference finals. "When you’ve proven it in the past and been through these things in the past, you often know what you can expect in the future. It’s no secret we’ve got to be better. It’s not always easy to find your game when you’re struggling."
Rookie Ilya Sorokin stopped the next 32 shots he faced after allowing Daniel Sprong’s goal at 1:29 of the first period, the first shot of the game. He had made 24 saves in a shaky outing in Saturday’s 6-3 loss at Nassau Coliseum, also allowing a goal on that game’s first shot.
Semyon Varlamov, who did not dress because of soreness, had made 28 saves in Thursday’s 1-0 shootout loss at the Coliseum, his second shutout over the Capitals this season.
The Capitals’ Vitek Vanecek only had to stop 18 shots for his second shutout.
"It’s definitely not been easy," Cizikas said. "You want to score. You want to put the puck in the back of the net, that’s the whole point of this game. When it’s not coming easy, you’ve got to get dirty. You’ve got to get to those hard areas. You’ve got to get in front of the net, in front of the goalie’s eyes and make it difficult as possible. You’ve got to continue working. You can’t let up because as soon as you let up, that’s when things go from bad to worse."
Coach Barry Trotz juggled his lineup in an effort to coax more production from his four lines. He re-inserted rookie Oliver Wahlstrom for Michael Dal Colle and defenseman Braydon Coburn for Noah Dobson. He elevated Josh Bailey to top-line center Mathew Barzal’s left wing and put ex-Devils Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac on second-line center Brock Nelson’s wings.
But the Islanders also went 0-for-3 on the power play, not getting a shot on net after Evgeny Kuznetsov slashed Jordan Eberle at 10:50 of the third period. They also couldn’t convert on a four-on-three that lasted one minute, 13 seconds after Anthony Mantha’s slashing penalty at 14:22 of the third period. The Islanders had gone 2-for-2 on the power play and added a shorthanded goal on Saturday.
"We’ve got another level," Trotz said. "There’s some guys that have another level in their game. They scored an early goal that was very preventable. We over-skated a puck and gave up the inside. We’ve got to deliver the puck to the net. A few times, we had a couple of looks and we tried to pass it off. We had some opportunities to do something on the power play and we didn’t get it done."