ANAHEIM, Calif. – The NHL is obviously a results-oriented business. For now, the Islanders will have to settle for the somewhat unsatisfying notion that the effort is there.
“I would take that game all year long on the road,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “We played the right way.”
Still, the Islanders dropped their second straight to start this four-game road trip with a 4-1 loss to the Ducks on Wednesday night at Honda Center.
Ryan Kesler scored twice for the Ducks (5-1-1) and John Gibson made 34 saves, losing his bid for his second shutout in six starts when Ross Johnston deflected Scott Mayfield’s point shot and it went in off Casey Cizikas’ skate with 34.4 seconds left in the third period.
Thomas Greiss stopped 21 shots for the Islanders (2-3-0), who face the Kings on Thursday night.
“I thought we deserved a better fate,” said defenseman Johnny Boychuk, who missed 10 minutes in the second period but managed to return after taking Marcus Pettersson’s shot off the inside of his left ankle and hobbling to the Islanders’ room. “At the end of the day, we have to finish those (chances).”
A minute after Boychuk was helped off the ice – despite his return, which Trotz admitted surprised him, the veteran is questionable for Thursday night’s game – Anders Lee hit the crossbar with a snap shot.
“A couple of inches, a couple of plays and it’s a completely different game,” Mathew Barzal said. “I don’t think we’re too worried about the way we played tonight.”
The early-season schedule has been decidedly disjointed for the Islanders, making it tough for the players to get into their preferred routine of less time between games.
The Islanders had four days in between an impressive 4-0 win over the Sharks at Barclays Center on Oct. 8 and opening the road trip with Saturday night’s 5-2 loss at Nashville.
The Islanders did learn a lesson from their turnover-prone first period against the Predators, which yielded three goals, and were more effective with their puck management on Wednesday.
“We haven’t had any rhythm,” Trotz said. “You can miss two, three days in between games and, when you come back, it’s just not the same. You’re a little bit rusty and you’re not in game mode.”
The Islanders, with an effective forecheck, outplayed the Ducks for the majority of the first period. But they still trailed at the first intermission 1-0 after Kesler knocked in a rebound for a power-play goal with 4.4 seconds left.
Kesler added a second goal at 8:20 of the second period, using defenseman Nick Leddy as a long-range screen.
It was a huge swing in momentum after the Islanders had a potential equalizer challenged and overturned for goalie interference at 6:34 of the second period as it was ruled Cal Clutterbuck shoved Gibson’s pad backwards as both he and Barzal poked away at the crease.
“We lost the puck somewhere in there and we don’t hear the whistle,” Barzal said. “I don’t know what we’re supposed to do. There was no whistle. I think it’s the right call but it’s tough. It’s a big momentum swing.”
Adam Henrique then made it 3-0 just 39 seconds into the third period. Hampus Lindholm capped the scoring with an empty-netter five seconds after Cizikas’ goal.