Every team goes through adversity at some point in a season. But the Islanders are doing it at a particularly bad time when it comes to the playoff race.
“It’s more of an eye-opener,” defenseman Scott Mayfield said. “I wouldn’t say it’s a trend.”
The Islanders emphatically fell out of first place in the Metropolitan Division for the first time since Jan. 17 with a defensively leaky 4-1 loss to the Flyers on Sunday afternoon before a sellout crowd of 13,917 at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum.
They fell two points behind the Capitals, who beat the Rangers, 3-2, in a shootout on Sunday afternoon. The Islanders, who have a game in hand on Washington, are 1-3-0 on this five-game homestand, which will end Tuesday night against the woeful Senators.
The Islanders (37-21-7), in a 2-4-1 skid, suffered their worst loss since a 6-2 drubbing at Pittsburgh on Dec. 6, which also had been the last time they lost two in a row in regulation.
The Isles followed their emotionally charged 6-1 win over the Maple Leafs in John Tavares’ return Thursday with a 3-1 loss to the Capitals on Friday in which they allowed three third-period goals, two of which they put into their own net.
“We have a little bit of adversity. We’ll stick together and figure it out,” Anders Lee said. “You lose 4-3 or 4-0, it’s a loss.
“I don’t know if it’s the effort,” he added. “It’s the play. We want to get back to that consistent play, absolutely. We’re gripping it a little tight.”
Brian Elliott made 29 saves for the Flyers (32-26-8), who are 16-3-2 since Jan. 14. Defenseman Adam Pelech scored the Islanders’ lone goal at 15:15 of the third period, long after the game was out of reach. Robin Lehner was pulled in favor of Thomas Greiss after allowing three goals on 13 shots in 23:18.
“We know what we can do,” said Mayfield, who was beaten along the wall by Travis Konecny as the Flyers opened the scoring at 8:21 of the first period after the Islanders had taken the first six shots. “You see that in the Toronto game. You see games where we’re more emotionally invested. I thought the first five minutes we were pretty good. But some pretty bad wall play led to the first goal. We missed some battles in front. There were some miscommunications. The battles down low weren’t there tonight.
“You can change the game completely with the battle level,” Mayfield added. “We lost too many in that game and we lost too many in the third period against Washington.”
But Mayfield said that is different from having a letdown after thrashing the Maple Leafs.
“We’ve all been around high- emotion games, quiet games, it’s more just digging down inside,” Mayfield said. “I know we’ve got better. It’s not a trend. It’s nothing to be scared about. We have to play with confidence.”
Defenseman Travis Sanheim made it 2-0 at 14:59, skating to the crease to collect his own rebound after Lehner and his teammates could not clear the puck from the low slot. Scott Laughton skated unchecked to the crease to make it 3-0 at 3:18 of the second period and Sean Couturier, battling Anthony Beauvillier for position, had Oskar Lindblom’s soft feed to the crease go in off his skate at 15:14.
“This is the time of the season when you have to get points,” right wing Jordan Eberle said. “It just seems like everyone’s winning. We have to keep pace. I know we put up a little bit of a leeway, but it’s gone now.”