RALEIGH, N.C. - There was too much missing from the Islanders' game here Thursday night.
Not just goals, though clearly the 1-0 loss to the Hurricanes could have used one of those, but just shots on target. The Isles missed the Carolina net more times (23) than they hit it (21), wasting a strong outing from goaltender Kevin Poulin and a game in which they controlled the puck and the play for far longer than the winners did.
"We did some good things in the offensive zone, but I thought we forced some plays a little bit," said Kyle Okposo, whose top line with Thomas Vanek and John Tavares had a bevy of opportunities off the cycle below the hash marks, but their passes or shots were often errant. "We have to play a little more simply."
Scoring hasn't been the problem in the Islanders' ragged start to the season. They came into the game as one of three NHL teams to score at least twice in every game thus far, along with the Blues and Hawks. But they fired 11 of their first 17 shots wide, and the other six were blocked.
Radek Dvorak's deflection off his body past Poulin at 6:39 of the first didn't seem to be a winner, given the Isles' prolific offense, but it was.
The Isles' power play, supposed to be even more improved with the addition of Vanek, still hasn't converted since Matt Moulson was dealt away. Moulson had five power-play goals with the Isles and, with Vanek, the power play is now 0-for-18 since the trade and in an 0-for-21 slump.
"I don't know what it's about right now with the power play," Jack Capuano said. "We seemed to be out of sync again. It didn't generate many shots."
Aside from Dvorak's deflection of Ron Hainsey's shot that was sailing 10 feet wide before it caromed in, Poulin was as perfect as Canes goaltender Justin Peters. Poulin had his best game in a long while on Saturday, stopping 26 shots in a 3-1 win over the Bruins. He was arguably better Thursday night when he made 23 saves and looked as alert and aware of his angles and rebounds as he has in four pro seasons.
"He really played well," Capuano said. "He gave us a chance and that's a good thing to see."
The Islanders could console themselves before this four-game road trip began that, despite their inconsistency, they were still ahead of the Metropolitan Division pack. But that's not true anymore. They are tied with the Canes for fourth at 6-7-3, now a point behind the Rangers. Even with a better performance than they had in Tuesday's 6-2 loss to the Caps, they can't come away empty-handed from games like Thursday night.
"I have to figure out a way to score a goal here," said Michael Grabner, one of the slumping Isles forwards. After scoring twice in the season opener, Grabner is without a goal in 13 straight. He had a couple of breakaway chances that were denied or broken up before he got to Peters.
Josh Bailey (no points in six games), Peter Regin (no points in five) and Casey Cizikas (one assist all season) are scuffling.
"It's frustrating to sit here and not even get a point out of this," Capuano said. "We did enough good things."