EDMONTON, Alberta - There's never a good night to have a bad game. The Islanders, so good this season, were so, so bad against the NHL's worst team Sunday night, and the result was fully appropriate.
The Isles' 5-2 loss to the Oilers (9-22-9) featured a pair of egregious giveaways that led straight to Edmonton goals, plus a few other brain cramps throughout the game that left coach Jack Capuano and captain John Tavares talking tough.
"I thought we played pretty good. We just had a couple guys who were downright very bad," Capuano said after his team lost in regulation for only the second time in 10 games (7-2-1) -- against a team that won for only the third time in 24 games. "Some guys need to look in the mirror. We gave them three gifts and an empty-net goal."
Said Tavares, "It's just unacceptable, that's the only way to describe it. We were slow, outworked, and it's not good enough, and that starts with me. Three goals against [by his line] is unacceptable."
The parade of door prizes began when Jaroslav Halak whiffed on a pass behind his own net, leaving the puck for Rob Klinkhammer to feed Matt Hendricks for basically an empty-net goal at 16:59 of the first period.
Jordan Eberle scored only eight seconds into the second after Tavares lost the opening faceoff and no one did much of anything as Edmonton turned up ice.
Johnny Boychuk's power- play blast pulled the Islanders within 2-1 at 3:41 of the second. They escaped the period down by only a goal despite another couple of mistakes -- one of which led to a two-on-nothing break by the Oilers, another that gave Edmonton 56 seconds of five-on-three time. Neither was converted.
The rare two-on-none break by the Oilers' Derek Roy and Teddy Purcell was set up when the Islanders' Thomas Hickey joined a rush late and cruised in alone with the puck. He snapped his stick in half as he shot and the puck squeezed under Oilers goalie Ben Scrivens, but without enough juice to cross the goal line. While all five Islanders on the ice stared at that loose puck, the Oilers scrambled the other way. Roy and Purcell passed the puck between them four times, but Roy fumbled the last pass and didn't even get a shot off before the Isles came racing back.
"I thought Jaro was good tonight," Travis Hamonic said. "It could have actually been worse if not for him."
It still was bad. Usually sure-handed Lubomir Visnovsky tried to wheel behind his net but lost the puck straight onto Derek Roy's stick in the slot for an easy goal at 2:33 of the third.
The Islanders controlled play from there but found only frustration before Hendricks worked the puck off three Islanders in center ice and hit the empty net with 2:30 to go.
With Halak back in the net, Matt Fraser gave the Oilers a 5-1 lead 17 seconds later. Brock Nelson scored his 15th goal with 31 seconds remaining.
Capuano swore his team did not overlook the struggling hosts, but Tavares may have felt otherwise. "It starts with being prepared to play, knowing how important every game is no matter who you're playing," he said. "It was too much of us not skating, not winning battles."
With Michael Grabner waiting near full health in the wings, a few changes could be coming to the roster and lineup on Monday before the Islanders face the Canucks Tuesday night to close the Canadian portion of this seven-game road trip.
"We talk about secondary scoring, but for the last four, five games, it's nowhere to be found," Capuano said.
There was anger but no sense of resignation for a team that still sits tied for first with the Penguins in the Metropolitan Division. But this was a rare clunker, one that may have taken the Isles by surprise.
"We have a character group in here and I know we'll respond," Tavares said. "We just have to be hungrier."
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