Home ice is becoming somewhat of a troubling disadvantage for the Islanders.
It’s now four straight defeats at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum after an entertaining but ultimately unsatisfactory 2-1 loss to the Metropolitan Division-worst Devils on Thursday night.
“We got away from our game of making it really hard on them, which I thought we were doing a really good job of for the first 30 minutes,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “We had some chances early and didn’t get them and they hung around and we didn’t really take it to the next level. That’s on us.”
The Islanders (25-11-3), who had won two in a row, fell to 13-5-2 at home.
“We wanted to come out with a good effort at home and get back to winning at home,” said Brock Nelson, who gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead with a four-on-four goal at 7:33 of the second period after defenseman Ryan Pulock sprung him through the neutral zone. “We’d like to have a couple of small plays back that were the difference.”
Mackenzie Blackwood stopped 29 shots for the Devils (15-19-6), who won their third straight. He cut down the angle as Leo Komarov rushed the net with less than five minutes to play, and Komarov’s attempted backdoor pass to Casey Cizikas open on the right was deflected.
Semyon Varlamov also made 29 saves as he started a season-high third straight game.
The Islanders will play five of their next eight at home, with one game at Barclays Center in that stretch.
“It’s important to take care of the games at home,” Pulock said. “We haven’t done that of late. There’s ups and downs in the season and you go on runs, but we’ve got to end this little losing streak at home.”
Typically, Trotz deflects questions about playing well at home and/or on the road by saying the team plays the same regardless of the site.
However, after dropping three straight at the Coliseum before the holiday break — 8-3 to the Predators, a 6-5 shootout loss to the Ducks and 3-2 to the Blue Jackets — Trotz put an emphasis on re-establishing a home-ice advantage.
The game marked the first between the Metropolitan Division rivals (the Islanders also have not played the Rangers). Five of the Islanders’ next 11 games heading into the All-Star break/bye week are against either the Devils or Rangers.
The Devils improved to 5-2-1 since trading former Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall on Dec. 16 and are 6-6-2 under interim coach Alain Nasreddine.
“This team is playing well right now,” Trotz said. “They’re playing free and they got the elephant out of the room with the Hall trade.”
The Islanders had an apparent goal overturned by Nasreddine’s successful challenge for goalie interference 39 seconds into the second period. Komarov had stuffed in the rebound of Devon Toews’ initial shot, but video review determined he impeded Blackwood.
“I didn’t really see what happened,” Komarov said. “I didn’t think it was that bad.”
Defenseman P.K. Subban’s blast from the right point tied it at 1-1 at 18:33 of the second period after Travis Zajac beat Nelson on an offensive-zone faceoff. Nelson also lost a defensive-zone draw to Nico Hischier that led to Hischier skating to the crease and tucking the puck around Varlamov’s right skate to give the Devils a 2-1 lead at 1:09 of the third period.
“I’d like to have that back and maybe play it differently,” Nelson said. “It ends up the difference.”
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