The chances were there, even if there wasn’t sufficient traffic in front of the crease all the time.
But the Islanders, despite a season-high 49 shots, couldn’t solve goalie Kevin Lankinen enough — just as they can’t figure out how to beat the Predators.
“There were probably moments when we needed more traffic,” coach Lane Lambert said after the Islanders’ 4-1 loss to Nashville on Friday night at UBS Arena. “If we did, perhaps one goes in. I thought we did a good job of generating chances. Their goaltender played well.
“You probably win that game eight out of 10 times. It just wasn’t to be tonight.”
The Islanders opened a three-game homestand by losing their ninth straight to the Predators dating to 2017.
Lankinen made a career-high 49 saves, stopping 21 shots in the third period. The Predators scored a power-play goal in each of the first two periods and Matt Duchene and Mikael Granlund added late empty-net goals to clinch it after the Islanders pulled within one.
“You put up a 50-spot every night, you’re probably going to win a lot of hockey games,” said Mathew Barzal, who tied a career high with nine shots and made it 2-1 with a power-play snipe from the left circle at 11:06 of the third period. “Just frustrated every time you lose. It’s the business of winning, so any time you lose, it’s tough. At the end of the day, you can’t dwell on it too long. It’s 82 games. It was a pretty good effort tonight.”
Still, the Islanders (15-10-0), who got 19 saves from Ilya Sorokin, have lost two straight and have scored two goals in their last two games. They were 1-for-4 on the power play with nine man-advantage shots.
Overall, they outchanced the Predators 77-43 and, per Natural Stat Trick, had 16 high-danger chances while yielding only five.
“I think [the pressure] was there all night,” Anders Lee said. “We got the puck to the net. We brought it to the net. Especially in the third, we had guys in front and creating some things. Sometimes on a night like this, you think we keep pushing and one is going to go. We got one on the power play but we needed one five-on-five.”
Lambert said the players who went to the net weren’t always in the right position to screen Lankinen.
“When those shots do come through, there was times when we were off to the side of the net, and that’s not going to get it done,” Lambert said. “Any goalie, certainly in this league, if they can see the puck clearly, they’re going to make the save.”
The Islanders dropped to 0-6-3 in their last nine against the Predators, who are 11-1-1 in the last 13 games between the teams. That included a 5-4 win in Nashville on Nov. 17 as the Islanders fell behind 4-1 in the second period.
“I feel like every game could really go either way,” Barzal said. “That’s a good hockey club over there. They’re heavy. They’re strong. Good D.”
Lankinen, who stopped 18 shots in the second period, dived to his right to deny Barzal’s redirection at 10:36 of the middle frame, then stopped Barzal’s breakaway at 14:13. He also smothered Barzal’s backhander as he got up the ice at 3:57 of the third period.
The Predators took a 2-0 lead on defenseman Roman Josi’s power-play goal at 8:22 of the second period, just eight seconds into a four-on-three advantage. Matt Duchene’s cross-ice feed found Filip Forsberg open low in the left circle for a power-play one-timer as the Predators went up 1-0 at 14:18 of the first period.