Doug Weight had called it possibly “the best loss of the year,” searching for a flicker of light after another dark night. The Islanders’ coach hoped that spirited third period by his staggering team Thursday in Philadelphia would carry over against Pittsburgh on Friday night at Barclays Center.
“We can’t waste any more time,” he said a few hours before the game.
Then the Islanders went out and wasted more time in beginning the second half of their schedule.
The Penguins claimed a 4-0 win behind Sidney Crosby’s goal and three assists, rookie Daniel Sprong’s first two goals of the season and rookie Tristan Jarry’s 31 saves.
So make it five straight losses, with only Sunday’s game against the Devils remaining before a mandatory five-day break.
“Maybe it’s a good time for a break,” Weight said. “Obviously, we need a little break. We look tired at times. We’re generating chances and not scoring.”
They are hurting physically. Top-line right wing Josh Bailey suffered a lower-body injury in the first period. Weight didn’t think he will play Sunday. Second-line left wing Andrew Ladd and defenseman Ryan Pulock left in the third.
“I just have been holding my face for 15 minutes,” a downcast Weight said. “So I don’t know how long people are going to be out.”
After their offense-fueled 15-7-2 start, the Islanders are in a 5-11-2 slide. With 44 points, they are only two points ahead of the last-place Flyers in the Metropolitan Division and two behind in the battle for the second wild card.
“How we were playing early has probably been a mirage for us,” Weight said. “It got us away from that identity that we’ve had for years here.”
The Penguins also had been struggling, not looking like two-time defending champs, but they did this time. Pittsburgh moved a point ahead of the Islanders for sixth in the Metropolitan Division and is one point behind in the race for the second wild card.
After a scoreless first period, the Penguins broke through with two goals in the first 3:30 of the second.
The first one came off a two-on-one. Crosby collected the puck along the boards in Pittsburgh’s side of the ice and rushed it through the left side of the Islanders’ zone before leading Sprong perfectly at the right doorstep. Jaroslav Halak didn’t have a chance.
Then Pulock tripped Phil Kessel to put Pittsburgh on the power play. Crosby crossed the puck to Evgeni Malkin, and his one-timer from the right circle beat Halak.
“We just didn’t execute as well as they did,” John Tavares said.
With 4:10 left in the second, Crosby banked the puck in off Halak from a bad right angle to make it 3-0. It was a terrible period for the Islanders, who were outshot 19-8.
“We’ve just got to stop making unprofessional mistakes,” Cal Clutterbuck said.
Sprong tacked on the final goal with 6:32 remaining, shortly after Mathew Barzal was stopped in front by Jarry.
“It’s extremely frustrating,” Anders Lee said. “You start looking for answers and try to search within yourselves and within the team.”