It didn’t matter that the makeshift Islanders, with an energetic performance, played a much better game Friday night. Their struggles to score continued, as did their losing streak.
"I don’t think anybody’s going out there and thinking the season’s over," Matt Martin said. "All across the board, everyone’s giving it their all. We’re all a little bit snake-bitten."
It’s eight losses in a row now after the Penguins won, 1-0, to conclude an opening four-game homestand at UBS Arena. The last-place Islanders (5-10-2), who were blanked for the third time in seven games, have scored nine goals in their last nine games and one power-play goal in their last 10.
Anders Lee, Kieffer Bellows, Ross Johnston and defensemen Adam Pelech, Andy Greene and Zdeno Chara remain in COVID-19 protocol and Josh Bailey was not ready to play after being removed from the COVID-19 list. Defenseman Ryan Pulock and Brock Nelson are on injured reserve with lower-body injuries.
"The main thing is to try not to get frustrated," said defenseman Noah Dobson, who rejoined the lineup after missing Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to the Rangers. "It’s easier said than done."
Still, coach Barry Trotz and some players mentioned the Islanders gripping their sticks too tightly, a sure sign of frustration.
"It’s not ideal, for sure," said Anthony Beauvillier, who has gone eight games without a point. "We’ve got to find a way as a group. It’s not coming easy. We’ve just got to fight through it and keep grinding."
In addition to Beauvillier’s scoring drought, Zach Parise has three assists this season. Mathew Barzal has one goal and no assists in his last seven games.
"This is one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced in 20-some years," said Trotz, who began his NHL coaching career with the Predators in 1998. "And I started with an expansion team."
The Islanders got a brilliant performance from Ilya Sorokin, who made 29 saves — including a breakaway stop on Sidney Crosby at 17:56 of the third period — and had to be sharp from the opening faceoff.
But Tristan Jarry, looking much more confident than he did in the Islanders’ six-game win in the first round of the playoffs last season, stopped 25 shots for the Penguins (10-6-4), who have won five straight. That included denying Otto Koivula’s potential equalizer at the crease at 17:35 of the third period.
The Islanders had lost each of the previous seven games by at least a three-goal margin and were outscored 12-3 in their first three games in their new $1.1 billion home. The Islanders’ power play went 0-for-6 against the Rangers and was 0-for-2 on Friday.
Plus the Islanders’ first man advantage against the Penguins turned into a momentum-killer in an otherwise decent second period.
After Jake Guentzel tripped Oliver Wahlstrom at 13:42, the Islanders did not manage a shot and could barely get the puck over the blue line against the NHL’s top-ranked penalty kill.
The Penguins then took a 1-0 lead as Kasperi Kapanen snapped the puck over Sorokin’s glove from the left circle at 16:41.
"We’re frustrated," Trotz said. "We’re squeezing it. And yeah, we lost some momentum there, there’s no question. The last couple of games, the other team has gotten momentum from our power play. We’ve got to change that. I have to change it."