OTTAWA, Ontario — Whatever the Islanders put forth lately, it’s just not good enough.
What they got on Thursday night was a fifth straight loss and a third straight regulation defeat. The Senators, long out of the playoff race, twice rallied from one-goal deficits for a 4-3 win at Canadian Tire Centre, spoiling Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s homecoming.
“Overall, we didn’t play a bad game. I think we controlled a lot of the play,” said defenseman Ryan Pulock, whose six-on-five goal made it 4-3 at 18:00 of the third period and set up a frantic final 120 seconds in which the Islanders could not push through the equalizer.
“Mistakes hurt us and we weren’t able to capitalize on theirs,” Pulock said. “When things get tough, that’s the way it goes. You’ve just got to bear down. We’re still fine in here. We’re still going to find a way. It’s going to feel good at the end of the day when we do come out of this. It’s just, for right now, it stinks and we’ve got to look in the mirror and find a way to get it done.”
The Islanders (35-23-8) still hold the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference but remained one point behind the idle Blue Jackets, who have played two extra games, for the first wild-card spot. They are only two points ahead of the Rangers, who have played one more game.
The Islanders will host the Hurricanes, who are three points behind them, on Saturday before departing for a four-game road trip. In other words, they are in tough straits in the season’s closing weeks. They are 2-7-2 without Casey Cizikas (left leg laceration), who still is at least two weeks away from returning.
“It stinks,” said Mathew Barzal, easily the best Islander as he played a dynamic game with a goal and two assists. “We just can’t get a ‘W’ right now. It’s just not coming easy. The game is going to test you every once in a while and it’s testing us right now.”
Semyon Varlamov made 25 saves for the Islanders and Craig Anderson stopped 37 shots for the Senators.
“We need more urgency in our game,” said Pageau, acquired from his hometown Senators on Feb. 24. “It’s desperation time now and we need those points.”
The Senators took a 4-2 lead on Brady Tkachuk’s goal at 16:55 of the third period. It’s the third straight game and the fourth time in five games that the Islanders have allowed at least four goals.
Barzal scored his first goal in 15 games and his second in 23 games for a 2-1 lead at 4:18 of the second period. His feed from behind the crease set up Anders Lee’s power-play goal for a 1-0 lead at 3:58 of the first period.
The Islanders, though, ceded their early momentum, with the Senators getting back-to-back power plays on tripping calls to defensemen Devon Toews at 6:14 and Noah Dobson at 8:51.
The Islanders killed those off, but the Senators maintained pressure and tied the score at 1-1 at 13:56 of the first period as Connor Brown knocked in the puck from the left post.
Mikkel Boedker’s shorthanded goal at 10:00 after Pulock turned the puck over tied it at 2-2 at 10:00 of the second period.
Josh Bailey’s turnover led to Anthony Duclair’s short-side goal off a rush down the right side to give Ottawa a 3-2 lead at 14:26 of the second period.
“You find out what you’ve got in the room,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “We’re playing for our playoff lives. Giving up three or four goals a game, we’ve got to do better than that.”
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