The Islanders missed an opportunity. Literally.
“You can’t score if you don’t hit the net, that’s the bottom line,” coach Lane Lambert said. “Seventeen attempts blocked and 23 missed shots. That’s too many.”
There was no stirring comeback this time. Instead, the Islanders were shut out for the second time in four games as they lost to the Coyotes, 2-0, on Thursday night at UBS Arena, only their second defeat in nine games.
“It’s unfortunate. We just couldn’t get one tonight,” said Mathew Barzal, who had five missed shots and two attempts blocked to go along with two on net. “Credit to Arizona. They did a good job of boxing it up and they were aggressive all night. They play an in-your-face system and gave us a little bit of trouble.”
The Islanders (9-6-0) lost in regulation at home to the Coyotes for the first time in 12 games. They had avoided losses by rallying from two-goal deficits entering the third period in Monday night’s 4-3 overtime win over the visiting Flames and Tuesday night’s 4-3 win over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. That was after Saturday’s 3-0 road loss to the Red Wings.
Karel Vejmelka made 24 saves for his second career shutout as the Coyotes (6-6-1) won their third straight to open a 14-game road trip, tied for the longest in NHL history.
Ilya Sorokin stopped 27 shots after shutting out the Coyotes the first two times he faced them in his career.
The Coyotes took a 1-0 lead on Travis Boyd’s power-play goal at the post at 1:00 of the third period, ending Sorokin’s shutout streak against them at 161:00. Jack McBain added an empty-netter.
“I think it’s the first goal we scored against him in two years,” Coyotes coach Andre Tourigny said. “So we were almost surprised when the puck went in. We didn’t know this guy could give up a goal. He’s really good. We needed a really good play to beat him.”
The Islanders went 0-for-3 on the power play after scoring at least one power-play goal in four of their previous five games. Barzal missed a wide-open look at the net on the power play at 7:13 of the third period and Barzal and Brock Nelson could not hit the net on good looks earlier on that man advantage.
“We had some good chances,” said defenseman Noah Dobson, who had five missed shots, three attempts blocked and three on goal. “Their goalie made some nice saves. We missed the net a couple of times. We’ve got to try and do a better job of putting them on net.”
Matt Martin hit the post on a sharp angle from the right at 5:16 of the third period. Defenseman Ryan Pulock hit the post at 1:52 of the second period, but otherwise, the Coyotes played stronger along the walls and outshot the Islanders 9-3 in the middle frame.
Per Natural Stat Trick, the Islanders did not generate a high-danger chance in the second period. The Coyotes had six.
“I think we just started forcing some things a little bit,” Dobson said. “Trying to make the hard play when you have the simple play. But it was a pretty even game.”
Sorokin stoned Nick Bjugstad on a two-on-one rush at 11:29 of the second period, then made an acrobatic glove save on Bjugstad’s rebound attempt as the Islanders went to the third period tied for the first time this season. Naturally, it also was the first time neither the Islanders nor the opponent had scored in the first two periods.