NEWARK — It’s three straight games now away from Barclays Center that the Islanders haven’t started well. On Saturday night, at least they finished well, though that got them the same zero points they earned in their previous two losses.
Nick Leddy’s shot toward a yawning net clanked off the post with 1:27 to go, cementing the Islanders’ 3-2 loss to the Devils.
The Isles had to wait for the West Coast games to see how much damage this latest road loss did to their playoff standing, but with nine straight on the road coming after the Devils visit Brooklyn on Sunday night, they have to look more at themselves than the standings.
“We’re in a playoff race. There’s no mental crap right now,” Doug Weight said after his team fell to 7-13-4 away from home. “If you have that [mental block], you’re not strong enough to be in it anyway.”
The Islanders fell behind 3-0 for the third straight road game. In Ottawa a week ago, they couldn’t break the Senators’ steel trap and lost by that score. In Toronto on Tuesday night, 3-0 became 7-1 in a lost effort in the third period.
On Saturday night, the Devils scored on Thomas Greiss in each period, with Pavel Zacha’s deflected power-play goal at 6:21 of the third putting the Isles in a three-goal hole. There was barely a peep from the home side after that as the Islanders finally got bodies to Cory Schneider’s grill.
“We did a better job of getting in front of him there,” said Andrew Ladd, who scooped up a loose puck with a tangle of bodies in front and snapped one past Schneider at 8:58 to start the Islanders’ attempted rally.
With some pep after Ladd’s 15th, the Isles surged. Anthony Beauvillier followed up his own shot on a one-on-three rush to cut it to 3-2 at 13:48, the rookie’s first goal in 19 games.
After the Islanders got a power play at 16:57, Schneider denied Anders Lee in close and the puck squirted out to Leddy charging off the left point. With Schneider nowhere in sight, Leddy snapped one off the post.
“I thought we deserved better,” said Weight, whose team outshot the Devils 42-21. “We were the better team tonight.”
Even with the Devils throwing so little on Greiss, there were mistakes. Greiss used his stick to deny Taylor Hall on an early breakaway, but Devante Smith-Pelly didn’t miss on his breakaway try at 7:10 of the first period after Calvin de Haan mis timed a play for the puck.
A minute later, John Tavares received a penalty shot after Travis Zajac hooked Tavares on a breakaway. Schneider got his right pad on Tavares’ wrister to keep the Isles off the board.
On a power play in the second period, Ryan Strome and Tavares were hounded into turnovers and Zajac buried a shorthanded two-on-one.
These three road losses do not spell the end of the Islanders’ playoff push. With 17 of the final 25 away from Barclays Center, there’s no push without road victories.
Said Weight: “We have to win on the road if we’re going anywhere.”