TORONTO — The Islanders aren’t alarmed because they are getting scoring chances. But their recent lack of production is bordering on alarming.
“Of course it’s frustrating, but we did have our opportunities,” Anders Lee said after a 3-0 loss to the Maple Leafs on Saturday night at Scotiabank Arena.
The Islanders (25-12-3), who lost to the Devils, 2-1, on Thursday night at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum, have been held to two or fewer goals in four of their last six games. They were blanked for the second time this season.
Michael Hutchinson, a 29-year-old journeyman who came into the game with a 4.03 goals-against average and an .883 save percentage, stopped 33 shots for his fifth career shutout.
“A couple of posts, two-on-ones, I had one in front,” Lee said. “It’s not coming easy and that can get frustrating. But I think we did a good job regardless of that of sticking with our game and keeping the pressure on. You’ve got to give Hutchinson credit. He made some phenomenal saves.”
“Are you frustrated?” Islanders coach Barry Trotz asked rhetorically. “You are a little bit because you know you played a solid game. The whole thing is to stick with it and you’ll get rewarded. That’s life. It’ll turn. Structurally, we were real solid. We were able to generate a lot of chances. We just weren’t able to find the back of the net.”
Semyon Varlamov made 20 saves against the Maple Leafs (24-14-5), who were held to fewer than four goals for the first time in their current 9-0-1 run.
“I think we did a pretty good job for the most part,” defenseman Ryan Pulock said. “Their goalie played well and we hit a few posts.”
Trotz, continuing his almost game-by-game search for the most productive line combinations, reunited Mathew Barzal with wings Anthony Beauvillier and Josh Bailey. That trio was together for a good portion of last season, but Trotz has used Beauvillier almost exclusively with center Brock Nelson this season.
Barzal notched his second career hat trick with three goals in the Islanders’ previous game in Toronto — their first of the post-John Tavares era — a 4-0 win on Dec. 29, 2018. The closest he came on Saturday was hitting the right post from the slot at 8:54 of the third period and then having Hutchinson glove his close-range backhander at 10:59.
Likewise, Trotz put his top line from last season, Nelson between Lee and Jordan Eberle, back together.
Eberle has gone five games without a point. Bailey has one assist in his last 10 games. Beauvillier has one assist in eight games.
Even Lee, who keeps getting chances around the crease, has only one assist in five games. Hutchinson robbed him at the left post with a pad save at 1:29 of the third period.
“Are you mentally tough?” Trotz said. “If you’re soft as butter, you’re probably done. If you’ve got some backbone, you just keep moving forward. This group has pretty good backbone.”
The Islanders held a 16-7 shot advantage in the second period after taking seven of the first eight shots, yet fell behind 2-0 as the Maple Leafs tallied twice within three minutes.
Kasperi Kapanen pushed the puck through the legs of rookie defenseman Noah Dobson and fed Pierre Engvall cross ice for a 1-0 lead at 13:25.
Auston Matthews then made it 2-0 from the low slot at 16:07 after defenseman Johnny Boychuk misplayed the puck along the wall deep in the Islanders’ zone. Seconds earlier, Boychuk’s blast from the right point hit the post.
Zach Hyman added an empty-netter at 17:52 of the third period.