From the first shift on Tuesday, the Islanders looked tired.
Doug Weight thought some of his players were asleep at the switch against the Devils.
“Just a brain cramp from [Mathew Barzal] right off the faceoff and we give up a couple great chances in the first 30 seconds,” Weight said.
The Islanders took the lead on Anders Lee’s goal at 1:39 of the first, but they were run over after that. The 4-1 final featured 38 saves by Jaroslav Halak, who was about the only Islander with any fire afterward when he wondered how his team could continue to give up so many good chances game after game.
“We keep making the same mistakes and give up odd-man rushes,” said Halak, who faced at least 35 shots for the 13th time in 27 starts and for the 10th consecutive start. “It seems like we don’t learn. This is not how you win games.”
The Islanders went with 11 forwards and seven defensemen Tuesday, a night after giving up 56 shots in a 5-4 overtime win over the Canadiens in Montreal. That game was a 7:30 p.m. start and the Isles got home well after midnight for the quick turnaround against a rested, angry Devils team that had gone 0-3-3 in their previous six. The Devils got 25 saves from Farmingville native Keith Kinkaid, who got his first career win over the Islanders.
But even with a makeshift lineup and numerous regulars missing, Halak wasn’t happy. A 1-1 game after a period turned into a three-goal deficit on too many turnovers and players flying the zone before the puck could be safely exited, leading to scrambles and shots flying at, and past, Halak.
“[The injuries] are no excuse. It’s been happening the whole year,” Halak said. “If we can’t learn from our mistakes, how can we get better? Teams are just going to be patient and wait for us to turn the puck over and then they get an odd-man rush. It’s too many.”
The killer was Taylor Hall’s two-on-one goal to make it 4-1, the product of John Tavares trying to get through two Devils near the New Jersey blue line with no one behind him.
“Johnny’s got to make a better decision on top there,” Weight said.
Of his group of inexperienced players: “I’m happy with what I’ve seen,” he said.
Shane Prince left the game after delivering a big hit to the Devils’ Brian Gibbons. If Prince misses time, add him to a list that now reads like a game roster for the Isles’ injured: Josh Bailey, Andrew Ladd, Johnny Boychuk, Casey Cizikas, Nikolay Kulemin and Calvin de Haan.
“That’s seven guys out,” Weight said. “There’s no violins playing for us.”
The red-hot Bruins come back to Brooklyn on Thursday and then the Islanders head off to Chicago, Arizona and Las Vegas. Only Bailey is expected back during that time frame, so the green group in blue and orange has to tighten things up.
They have won three of the last four, but aside from routing the Rangers on Saturday, they were on their heels too often. Between the two Devils games, a 5-4 shootout win Jan. 7 and Tuesday’s loss, plus the Canadiens overtime triumph, the Islanders allowed 142 shots on goal in three games.
“You pray for a quick recovery for the injured guys,” Thomas Hickey said, “but we have to find a way ourselves.”