SEATTLE — It was a sleepy New Year’s Day for the Islanders.
Problem was, they had a game on Sunday.
“We had an off night,” Anders Lee said. “It wasn’t crisp. We weren’t giving each other clean pucks so it turns into a dirty game. Not a lot gets created. You saw it. It just looked awful. It seemed tonight that we couldn’t handle the puck the way we normally do. We were trying to get to our game. We just couldn’t figure it out.”
The Islanders generated little as they opened a four-game western swing with an uninspiring 4-1 loss to the Kraken at Climate Pledge Arena, snapping a three-game winning streak and again dropping out of a playoff position.
Goalie Ilya Sorokin was spectacular at times for the Islanders (21-15-2) as he stopped 31 shots. He got little support, though, either in terms of offensive production or consistent defensive help on the goals he allowed.
“He’s outstanding again,” Zach Parise said. “You wish you could give him a little more goal support. We just didn’t generate nearly enough to get more than the one. You’ve got to have that ability to get three. When we have three, our guys are so good, we’re going to have a good chance to win.”
The Islanders never applied consistent pressure on Martin Jones, who needed to make only 18 saves for the Kraken (19-12-4) and allowed a soft goal. Despite his 15-5-3 record, Jones has an inflated 2.96 goals-against average and a subpar .888 save percentage.
Even in the third period, with the Islanders trailing by two, they took only three shots in the first nine-plus minutes.
“We weren’t executing,” coach Lane Lambert said. “We weren’t clean on our breakouts. It starts there. You can’t play with speed if you don’t execute or exit your zone cleanly, and we didn’t do that. When we did have the puck in the neutral zone, at times, we turned it over instead of getting it deep and establishing our forecheck. We didn’t generate anything because we didn’t play the game the right way.”
The Islanders slipped to ninth in the Eastern Conference, trailing the Rangers and the Penguins for the two wild-card spots. They had just swept a three-game homestand but had gone 1-2-2 on their previous road trip.
To be fair, Lambert is dressing somewhat of a makeshift lineup with six players on injured reserve.
The Islanders generated only 12 shots through the first two periods and trailed 3-1 after the Kraken’s two-goal second period.
Eeli Tolvanen, in his first game with the Kraken after being claimed off waivers from the Predators, connected on a power-play one-timer to make it 2-1 at 3:58.
After Mathew Barzal tied it at 1, slipping the puck under Jones’ pad at 17:30 of the first period, the Islanders opened the second period on the power play but were outshot 2-1 by the Kraken on that man advantage.
“I fully expected us to be better in the second period and it started with the power play, which didn’t execute,” Lambert said. “Then they scored on the power play soon thereafter. So special teams played a big role in this game tonight as well.”
Oliver Bjorkstrand lifted the rebound of defenseman Jamie Oleksiak’s initial shot to give the Kraken a two-goal lead at 13:04. Brandon Tanev added an empty-netter.
The Islanders got off to a horrid start as they were outcompeted for pucks and outshot 11-1 in the opening 13:45. Defenseman Adam Larsson, banging in a shot from the slot, made it 1-0 at 9:53 after Sorokin could not control Tanev’s initial wrist shot.
“They were just fast all night,” Barzal said of the Kraken. “They were in our face and the defensemen were up in the play. That’s really what it was.”