SAN JOSE, Calif. - The Islanders juggled their forward lines, put Jaroslav Halak back in goal and played a better game than they had in a week.
It still wasn't enough, though, especially from a newly formed top line. Kyle Okposo scored, but he, John Tavares and Brock Nelson were out of sync much of the night and were on ice for the Sharks' go-ahead score with 8:10 to go.
The 3-1 loss to San Jose was the Islanders' third straight, dropping them to 6-5-0 after a 4-0 start. They had only 20 shots on goal and had another 25 blocked by the Sharks in a game that was evenly played and tied into the second half of the third period.
But a puck up the wall eluded Okposo and Justin Braun's point shot was neatly tipped over Halak's shoulder by Logan Couture. After another turnover in the neutral zone, James Sheppard sealed it by deflecting Adam Burish's pass over Halak with 4:25 left.
"We can't score,'' Jack Capuano said. "I don't know what the issue is right now other than that. I thought the guys played well, our goaltender gave us a chance to win. We've just got to find a way to score goals.''
With a group of revamped forward lines, the Isles looked more in sync and active five-on-five than they'd been in a few games. And it helped them strike first.
Nick Leddy controlled a bouncing puck in the neutral zone as the Sharks went for a change, forcing San Jose to scramble a bit as Leddy gained the blue line. He dropped the puck to Okposo, who walked around Brent Burns and snapped a shot under Antti Niemi at 8:06 of the first.
But the broken penalty kill caused problems again a short time later. With Ryan Strome in the penalty box, the Sharks pressed on Halak and got the tying goal off a couple of fortunate bounces -- one off the glass that handcuffed Johnny Boychuk behind the Islanders' net, the other a puck that Tommy Wingels whacked perfectly past Thomas Hickey to Tomas Hertl alone in front for a quick strike and a tie game at 10:23. The Islanders have allowed 12 power-play goals in 34 shorthanded situations this season.
The Islanders were outshot 17-6 in the first period, but it didn't feel that lopsided.
About 11 months ago, when the Islanders last visited San Jose, they were outshot 18-3 in a dominating first period, saved only by then-Isles goaltender Kevin Poulin. Saturday night was not like that. Halak was sharp, as he needed to be, but the Islanders were able to generate some offensive-zone time and cycle the puck.
That improved in a second period that featured only 10 total shots, six by the Islanders, but a much stronger forecheck and offensive presence by them. The Islanders had 25 shot attempts in the middle period, with the Sharks blocking 12. Travis Hamonic, back after missing four games, jumped into the play often and had six of the 25 second-period attempts.
The Nelson-Tavares-Okposo line had a couple of moments, but also had an equal number of cringeworthy plays that led to turnovers. Too fancy would have been the obvious assessment, especially in a tight game without much flow.
"We just have to score on our opportunities, basically,'' said Tavares, who was held off the scoresheet for the third time in the last four games. "Sometimes you have to find a way to pay the price and get the results you want. When you're doing things well, the bounces and goals come a little easier.''
Notes & quotes: Josh Bailey has seen quick improvement in the strength and flexibility in his broken left hand and hopes to be cleared shortly for more on-ice work as he tries to return inside of two weeks from his injury. He likely will have an X-ray Monday or Tuesday in Anaheim. "I've really noticed a difference the last few days," Bailey said. "A lot of the bruising is gone. It's great to see that it's gotten better so quickly." . . . D Matt Carkner, on injured reserve since the season began, had surgery last week to repair a herniated disc in his back and likely is done for the season. Carkner is in the final year of a three-year, $4.5-million contract.
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