The goaltending was suspect at times, their defensive structure broke down at crucial moments and passing the puck out of their own zone seemed too tough a task in the opening period.
Yet the Islanders nearly overcame these shortcomings in their home opener before losing to the Predators, 4-3, before a crowd of 12,163 at Barclays Center on Saturday night.
“A little bit frustrating we weren’t able to capitalize, but we played a better game than we did two nights ago,” said captain Anders Lee, whose power-play goal with 28.8 seconds left in the second period provided the final margin and set up a tense third period in which the Islanders pressured consistently but could not score the equalizer.
“Our structure is good, our defense is good,” Lee added. “We play like that most nights, we’re going to be fine.”
That the Islanders, who host the Sharks on Monday afternoon in Brooklyn, were within striking distance of the Predators was a testament to their physicality, their compete level in the final two periods and a 1-for-4 power play that generated nine shots.
“That’s a good team out there,” said Mathew Barzal, who tied the score at 1 off Josh Bailey’s feed at 12:01 of the first period on a video-reviewed goal and had the secondary assist on Lee’s goal, which also was set up by Bailey. “It’s tough not getting a point. I think we worked hard the last two periods and their goalie made some big saves.”
The Isles’ Thomas Greiss made 19 saves and the Predators’ Juuse Saros stopped 26 shots.
The Islanders had chances to tie the score, and Saros turned aside Jordan Eberle from right in front of the net at 15:41 of the third period. The Islanders held a 22-11 shot advantage in the final 40 minutes.
“I thought we had some pretty good stretches,” coach Barry Trotz said. “Our overall game, I thought we were pretty good. I thought we handled their speed well. I thought we managed the puck a lot better than we did in Carolina.”
Greiss had a strong start to the season with 45 saves in Thursday night’s 2-1 overtime win at Carolina, but he struggled in the first period on Saturday as he faced more odd-man rushes.
Viktor Arvidsson gave Nashville a 1-0 lead at 3:42 of the first period, pulling the puck between his legs and then around defenseman Ryan Pulock before getting to the net.
Mattias Ekholm regained a 2-1 lead for the Predators at 16:56 of the first period, beating Greiss over his glove from the left circle with an unscreened wrist shot that Trotz said might have deflected off defenseman Johnny Boychuk’s stick.
“It was an awkward game,” Greiss said. “They didn’t shoot it too much. They had a couple of good chances, a couple of tough screens, and I really couldn’t find the puck. [Ekholm’s shot] was a weird knuckle puck. I just missed that one.”
Greiss was screened on Craig Smith’s shot from the slot as the Predators took a 3-2 lead at 13:30 of the second period.
Arvidsson extended the Predators’ lead to 4-2 at 16:42 of the second period as Ryan Johansen skated around defenseman Thomas Hickey and fed the puck toward the crease.
Valterri Filppula, 34, who signed a one-year, $2.75-million deal in large part to bolster the Islanders’ NHL-worst penalty kill, had tied the score at 2-2 at 2:46 of the second period with his second goal in two games with his new team. He deflected in Tanner Fritz’s deflection of defenseman Luca Sbisa’s blue-line wrist shot.