There have been a few things missing from the Islanders the last two games. Doug Weight called it “pizzazz.” There was a certain blah feeling to their opening 37 minutes Monday night to be sure.
Also missing: good scoring chances, goals and wins.
The Islanders’ 3-1 loss to the Predators was hugely deflating and costly, keeping them two points behind the Bruins (who own the tiebreaker with more regulation and overtime wins) with seven games to play. The loss was the Islanders’ fifth straight (0-4-1) at home.
Coupled with their 2-1 loss to Boston on Saturday, the Islanders have mustered only two goals on 44 shots in their two biggest games of the season. Tampa Bay earned an overtime win Monday night to move a point ahead of the Isles, who now need to go through another team just to see inside the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
“We’ve been a little too late to the party on a consistent basis,” Weight said of his team’s sluggish starts to three of the last four games. “It didn’t bite us against the Rangers, but it did the last couple games.”
The Islanders’ deficit against the Predators could have been worse than 1-0 after one. Weight challenged Ryan Ellis’ goal at 8:43 of the first for offside, and a quick review overturned it. Nashville, however, got on the board legally 94 seconds later when Kevin Fiala had loads of room to fire a wrist shot past Thomas Greiss off a rush.
Viktor Arvidsson outworked the much bigger Anders Lee for the puck and then position in Greiss’ front porch to deflect Filip Forsberg’s pass home at 3:15 of the second, leaving the Isles in a two-goal hole.
Josh Bailey deflected Nick Leddy’s shot past Juuse Saros at 17:40 of the second, but the third period looked much like the one against Boston on Saturday: Very little room and very few second chances on shots. Saros stopped all 10 Isles shots in the third, and there weren’t more than one or two dangerous ones in the lot.
“You can say there’s pressure now, but that’s part of the opportunity we have,” John Tavares said. “I don’t think anyone expected us to be back in it right now. That pressure has to be motivating. We have to play better, starting with myself.”
There were a few culprits. Andrew Ladd, who’s been solid for nearly two months, didn’t have a shot attempt. Jason Chimera took an overzealous penalty deep in the Nashville zone with a few seconds left in the second that forced the Isles to their heels to start the third.
The Isles’ power play was 0-for-2 and has been scoreless in seven of the last eight. Asked if the Islanders would consider calling up Ryan Pulock to aid the power play, Weight said only: “We’ll consider everything that’s available.”
With two days until their next game, the Islanders have to watch the now three teams within shouting distance play. The Bruins will host the Predators and the Maple Leafs will host the Panthers on Tuesday night, so by the time the Isles take the ice again, things could be that much more dire.
“We’ve played a lot of hockey. We’ve been emotionally invested these last six weeks,” Weight said. “It’s not an excuse, but it’s tough. It’s exhausting, but it’s exciting, too.”