For the Islanders, it is just about time to play a sad song and roll the credits on a movie their fans have seen before.
Their postseason -- that is, the part of the schedule left after they again were eliminated from playoff contention -- began Sunday with a desultory 5-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators at Nassau Coliseum, turning Fan Appreciation Day into something of a Testing the Resolve of Fans Day. The Islanders, 33-35-11 with three games to go, were sent off the ice with a healthy smattering of boos.
"I wouldn't say it's the worst time of the year," All-Star center John Tavares said. "I'd say the worst time of the year is when you're not playing and you're watching what's going to be going on in a couple of weeks" as the Stanley Cup playoffs commence.
"But it seems a little weird out there. I think, just the whole game, while we had some spurts, we didn't play our best. It's disappointing, the result. And obviously, losing is not fun."
The Islanders scored early but not often, their 1-0 lead 7:55 into the game steadily buried under an avalanche of Ottawa offense and the Islanders' reversion to performances that too often could be rated standard & poor.
Defenseman Andrew MacDonald's inability to keep the puck in the Ottawa zone during the first Islanders power play, in the fourth minute, was an early omen of trouble, but Ottawa wing Rob Klinkhammer missed the net on a breakaway.
Tavares' nifty feed from behind the net, off the left skate of charging defenseman Mark Streit, gave the Islanders that brief lead, but Kyle Turris tied the score four minutes later by rattling a shot under the crossbar as Islanders goalie Al Montoya (27 saves) left a big target by sprawling on the ice.
Another unhelpful moment for the Islanders came two minutes into the second period. Forward Michael Grabner stole an Ottawa pass during a penalty kill and burst in alone on goalie Craig Anderson (29 saves) but shot wide.
A minute later, Ottawa took the lead for good when defenseman Sergei Gonchar snapped the puck past Montoya after a lovely behind-the-back pass from Milan Michalek. Michalek's 35th goal three minutes later sent Ottawa on its merry way.
Nick Foligno was credited with a goal that Streit accidentally tipped past Montoya at 13:21 of the second and Turris got his second goal early in the third by bouncing the puck off fallen Islanders defenseman Steve Staios -- on a power play set up when Islanders call-up Micheal Haley tried to pick a fight with Chris Neil.
Though the games are of no consequence in terms of the standings, Islanders coach Jack Capuano said his players "have to compete for one another. That's the big thing. We've got three games left. This is where you find out a lot about certain guys."
To Tavares, whose work rate was evident, as usual, "Obviously, we didn't reach our goal this year, but that doesn't change the fact of loving the game, playing the game, and playing with a lot of pride, sticking together as a team, moving forward and trying to get better."
Not everybody gets the Hollywood ending.