RALEIGH, N.C. — Coming off a good win in South Florida the night before, coming up with a two-goal lead early in the second period against an improving young Hurricanes team, the Islanders could have thought some of the consistency that has been sorely absent this season was starting to materialize.
Then it blew away in the exhaust fumes behind Carolina’s speedy skaters.
The Islanders allowed the Hurricanes full use of the front of Thomas Greiss’ net, where Carolina jammed home rebounds and tipped home cross-ice passes to the tune of a 7-4 drubbing Saturday night. It ended with Greiss pulled after Jordan Staal scored the seventh goal with 6:07 to go.
Greiss did what he could in the face of 43 Hurricanes shots. They finished with 45.
“He stood his ground for us all season and tonight we hung him out to dry,” Anders Lee said. “We’ve got to play better in front of him.”
The Islanders have hit the halfway mark of the season at 16-17-8, last in the Eastern Conference and bereft of any consistency. They had been aggressive and relentless in a 5-2 win over the Panthers on Friday night, pushing the attack with the lead in the final two periods.
On the second night of a back-to-back, John Tavares picked up where he left off by tipping home his fourth goal in two nights at 4:16 of the first period. Lee made it 2-1 after a period and Jason Chimera had his second goal in as many nights off a nice feed from Anthony Beauvillier at 1:52 of the second for a 3-1 lead.
But the onslaught began soon after. Scott Mayfield, playing in place of Johnny Boychuk, got to racing around his own end and accidentally kicked a loose puck in under Greiss. Elias Lindholm scored off the rush with five Islanders back. Brett Pesce reached his stick past Thomas Hickey to deflect a pass behind Greiss and send the Isles to the third period down a goal.
“It may have seemed too much for us to handle, but it shouldn’t be,” Hickey said. “There were four or five scored in the crease or next to it, and that’s on us. That’s someone beating you to a puck, plain and simple.”
Tavares scored off a scramble 68 seconds into the third period to tie it, but the Islanders did not seem to have enough fortitude to get their structure together. Lee Stempniak jumped on to a wrist shot that beat Greiss at 5:42, and by the time Staal jammed home a rebound with Adam Pelech standing in front of him but not impeding him, J-F Berube’s appearance in net in place of Greiss was a mercy move, not one to spark the Islanders.
“A couple of their goals came off turnovers at their line,” Jack Capuano said. “When you play a team with that much pace, you have to protect the puck a little bit better.”
The Islanders headed to Boston the embodiment of inconsistency: Since they returned from California the day after Thanksgiving at 6-10-4, they’ve had runs of 5-0-1, 0-4-1, 4-1-0, 0-1-2 and now a win followed by a loss.
“It’s why we are where we are,” Hickey said. “We had a good game [Friday], we had a two-goal lead here and a chance to get another good road win. They outwilled us, that’s the bottom line. We’re halfway through the season and one win, one loss won’t cut it.”