Subtract a 22-second stretch that yielded two goals against and two game-turning penalties and the Islanders played one of the best teams in the NHL evenly. Except, that kind of fuzzy math is not allowed in the NHL.
“You don’t get paid to hang in,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “You get paid to win.”
The Islanders were back at Barclays Center for a 3-1 loss to the Jets on Tuesday night before a crowd of 9,125, a much more somnolent atmosphere than Saturday’s emotional 3-2 win over the Blue Jackets at a raucous NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum as a sell-out crowd of 13,917 celebrated the team’s regular-season return to its ancestral home for the first time since 2015.
But the Islanders (13-10-3) did not fall into the trap of a letdown, instead playing a structured game, those 22 seconds in the third period notwithstanding.
“It’s kind of frustrating because we did a pretty good job tonight,” defenseman Ryan Pulock said. “The crowd the other night was the best you’ll see in the league. It’s different but I don’t think there was a letdown. We came out and we played well. At the end of the day, we didn’t get the result.”
The Jets (17-8-2), Western Conference finalists last season, were playing for the ninth time in 16 days, with seven of those games on the road. That included a 4-3 overtime win over the Devils on Saturday and a 4-3 shootout win against the Rangers on Sunday. The Jets scored three, third-period goals in that one.
The Islanders led 1-0 as captain Anders Lee swept a forehand past Connor Hellebuyck (27 saves) at 1:33 of the third period. But Mathew Barzal was called for holding Ben Chiarot’s stick in the offensive zone and the Jets’ second-ranked power play converted on Jacob Trouba’s shot through traffic from the blue line at 3:39. Then, Adam Lowry made it 2-1 at 4:01 as he got free to knock in the rebound of Brandon Tanev’s wrist shot. Nikolaj Ehlers’ empty-netter sealed it with 2.1 seconds left.
“I thought we had a lot of chances,” Trotz said. “Hellebuyck made a couple of big saves. We hit a couple of posts. It all turned when we took a penalty 200 feet from our net. A bad clear by us and it ends up in the net. The next shift, we don’t box out at the net and, all of a sudden, we’re down 2-1.”
The Islanders had a chance at the equalizer when Tanev tripped Barzal at 8:57. But Lee’s tripping penalty against Tyler Myers at 9:32 negated that chance.
The Islanders were 0-for-2 on the power and are now 0-for-17 over their last eight games.
“One goal doesn’t do it in this league,” said Barzal, back on the first power-play unit while Valtteri Fillpula took his spot on the second unit. “We’ve got to find a way to get on the board, whether that’s the power play or five on five. That’s the best team in the league, I’d say. For us to hang in there and push the pace, I thought, for most of it, it stinks not getting any points.”
Thomas Greiss helped keep it close with 21 saves, including turning aside two close-range chances by Kyle Connor at 18:10 of the second period.