GLENDALE, Ariz. — Two games against the two worst teams in the NHL. Two measly goals and two loser points. Too many times the Islanders have been left wondering what’s happened to them this season.
The Isles dropped a 2-1 shootout decision to the Coyotes here Saturday, 22 hours after losing by the same score to the Avalanche. Colorado snapped a 10-game home losing streak; Arizona on Saturday stopped a nine-game losing slide with a visit from the Islanders, whose offense was left behind during the five-day break that ended Thursday.
The Isles scored 23 goals in the five games prior to the break.
“Before the break, everything seemed to be going in for us,” said Shane Prince, who hit a post and then a crossbar on the same shift in overtime. “It’s obviously frustrating to get two points and only score two goals.”
Alan Quine’s deflection of Johnny Boychuk’s shot put the Isles in front heading into the third and the Islanders were strong defensively, not allowing a Coyotes shot on Thomas Greiss until the 14:05 mark.
Unfortunately, that shot went in. Brandon Perlini deflected Connor Murphy’s point shot past Greiss to tie it, the result of the Islanders misfiring on three power plays with a 1-0 lead, including a 31-second five on three late in the second.
Not only didn’t the Islanders score to grab a needed two-goal lead, they didn’t have a shot on Louis Domingue during any of those three power plays, including the five on three. The best chance either way was Tobias Rieder’s shorthanded breakaway in the third and Rieder hit the post with seven minutes to go.
“You know when it’s five-on-three, their penalty killers are going to come out and be desperate,” John Tavares said. “We have to be ready to match that level. We’ve got to be better there.”
They were better and hungrier in the three-on-three overtime, with Prince hitting iron twice and Domingue stopping good chances by Josh Bailey and Nick Leddy. But Anthony Duclair and Radim Vrbata scored on the first two Arizona shootout attempts and Cal Clutterbuck and Andrew Ladd missed the net to send the Islanders to their eighth loss in 11 games that have gone to OT or the shootout.
The Islanders head home with three days until they host the Panthers. All the players who spoke after both games and coach Jack Capuano felt there was enough good in these two games to build off. But how much time does this team have left to build in such fits and starts?
They are still in the basement of the Eastern Conference, nine points from the last playoff spot and with seven teams in their way. These two games against teams that are far more into draft lottery scouting than standings-watching should have been a good way to kick off the stretch run.
Instead, they have left the Islanders with more questions and too few answers. They had a couple of injury scares, with Brock Nelson and Travis Hamonic each missing time during the game with injuries, though both returned. But the overwhelming feeling of disappointment is the biggest takeaway.
“This easily could’ve been two wins for us,” Quine said. “It stinks. We can take some positives, but we were trying for four points.”