EDMONTON, Alberta — Doug Weight was asked if he had any words left to describe what has befallen his team. He came up empty.
“No, I don’t. I don’t,” the Islanders’ coach said Thursday night. “Nothing. I can’t.”
It was difficult to blame him after the latest flop in a cliff dive out of playoff contention. This time it was a 2-1 shootout loss to the Oilers in a game the Islanders were 110 seconds away from winning in regulation time.
So make that eight games in a row without a victory. The fact that four came in overtime or shootouts illustrates the Islanders often have played well enough to win, only to lose anyway.
“It’s extremely hard to believe,” said Thomas Hickey, who scored the Islanders’ only goal 1:54 into the third period.
The Islanders’ failure to hold on for two points was made worse by the fact that both the Blue Jackets and Panthers won Thursday night.
The Blue Jackets have a seven-point lead on the Islanders for the final wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference. The Panthers have a five-point lead and have played three fewer games. For that matter, the Hurricanes have a three-point lead.
Adding to the disappointment was that the Islanders wasted a strong outing by goalie Christopher Gibson, who lost his shutout and eventually his first NHL victory in two seasons on a fluke goal with 1:50 remaining in the third period. The Oilers’ Connor McDavid skated behind Gibson and shot toward the front of the net, where the puck bounced off the stick of the Islanders’ Brandon Davidson, off Gibson’s head and in.
“It was just one of those bounces you wish you could have back,” said Davidson, a former Oiler. “It’s frustrating. It seems like that’s kind of been almost like a theme.”
Said Gibson, “It’s frustrating. They got a lucky bounce there at the end.”
Weight was disappointed in how his defense dealt with McDavid on the play, but the young star was brilliant all night, finishing with nine shots on goal, a penalty shot in overtime that hit the post and, finally, the game-winner in the shootout.
With the shootout tied at one apiece after two rounds, McDavid beat Gibson with a nasty move and the Oilers’ Cam Talbot stopped John Tavares to end it.
“He’s a great player,” Gibson said of McDavid. “He has a lot of speed, and I’ll leave it at that.” About the final goal, he said, “He has great hands, quick hands. He did a move and I bit on his move and he ended up scoring.”
Hickey said watching the shootout was “crushing,” but he added, “That’s the way things are, it seems, right now. It keeps on stinging and hurting, not getting two points.”
The goal Hickey scored came off a nice feed from Brock Nelson. Hickey took possession in the left circle, drove toward Talbot and popped a backhand high over the goalie’s left shoulder.
Gibson was excellent throughout, much as he was in an overtime loss to the Penguins on Saturday that earned him the start against the Oilers.
Asked afterward if he might consider giving Gibson more starts given how well he has played, Weight veered off into the bigger, sadder picture.
“That’s like the second-hardest thing to think of after a loss like that,” he said. “The first is getting cameras shoved in your face after the eighth straight loss. That’s the hardest thing for me to deal with, personally. I’m not good at it yet.”
The Islanders’ last chance to get a win before returning home comes Sunday in Calgary. What could possibly go wrong?
“Good teams find a way to close those games out,” Hickey said. “We’re trying to be a good team. It’s that hump you have to get over.”
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