MONTREAL - The Islanders were angry after Sunday night's 4-2 loss to the Canadiens, but it was a bit misplaced.
Their second loss to the Canadiens in three nights and sixth straight to Montreal in the last two seasons came down to what goaltender Thomas Greiss called "a pretty soft call" when Taylor Beck bumped Montreal goaltender Carey Price, who sold the bump well and drew a goaltender-interference minor with 3:35 left in a 2-2 game.
Soft call or not, the Canadiens needed only six seconds to score the eventual winner. David Desharnais beat Frans Nielsen on the ensuing faceoff and the puck went to P.K. Subban, who sent it back across for a one-timer by Alex Galchenyuk to beat Greiss with 3:29 left.
The Canadiens had three power-play goals and one shorthanded score, the sort of special-teams effort the Islanders had no answer for. Desharnais scored from in close to tie it at 1-1 at 9:37 of the second. Tomas Fleischmann gave the Canadiens a 2-1 lead with a shorthanded breakaway score at 14:09 of the second after Kyle Okposo lost the puck at the Montreal blue line and the two kicked skates, sending Okposo tumbling and Fleischmann away with the puck.
Max Pacioretty's empty-net goal with 8.9 seconds left counted as a power-play goal after the Islanders committed an inexcusable too-many-men minor with 1:22 to go. Travis Hamonic received a misconduct as the Isles' bench argued the call, but the replay showed it was quite obvious.
The Islanders' penalty kill was the league's best through 12 games, operating at over 90 percent efficiency. They now are at 78.9 percent, no longer in the top half of the NHL.
"Our penalty kill has got to be better," Jack Capuano said. "The last couple weeks, we've given up goals and they're all timely ones. We're right where we need to be tonight, tied with five minutes left, and we don't give ourselves a chance."
Anders Lee's goal just as an Islanders power play expired tied the score with 8:07 left, but that was the closest the Isles came to a man-advantage score in five opportunities. Brock Nelson drew another power play with 6:07 to go in the third, but the Islanders didn't put a shot on Price during that advantage.
"When we get our opportunities, we have to score," said John Tavares, who put the Islanders in front with a tap-in goal off a feed from Okposo at 18:41 of the first. "We had some tough breaks go against us again. But we have to find a way."
Tavares also felt the call on Beck was weak and that Nelson, sprung on a semi-breakaway by Okposo and hooked off the puck by Nathan Beaulieu, deserved a penalty shot.
"I think Price went down pretty easy," Tavares said. "He doesn't do that when he's fighting through traffic to stop shots. It's a tough call to make there."
But this was hardly the same as the Isles' previous visit here less than three weeks ago, when a puck caromed off a linesman and settled for Fleischmann on a two-on-one that became the winner in a 4-1 loss.
That was a bad break, but on Sunday night the Islanders had their chances against Price (21 saves) and were the better team for a long stretch of the third.
"I thought we played a pretty good road game," said Greiss, who made 23 saves. "We were real solid, I think. They had a set play and scored a nice goal."
Notes & quotes: Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher suffered two broken fingers after blocking Johnny Boychuk's shot with his left hand and will have surgery on Monday. "It was pretty gross," Boychuk said of seeing Gallagher's mangled hand in the second period . . . Beck played for only the second time since being recalled on Oct. 31, subbing in for Steve Bernier. Adam Pelech also played his second game since being recalled on Nov. 9, with Marek Zidlicky sitting.