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Islanders’ special teams betray them in loss to Wild

The Wild's Jason Zucker scores on Islanders goalie

The Wild's Jason Zucker scores on Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss during a game Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017, in St. Paul. Minn. Credit: AP / Jim Mone

SAINT PAUL, Minnesota — Doug Weight had some words to describe his team’s power play. Lots of them, in fact, plus a few not suitable for print.

“Lethargic, lax, soft, zero battle,” Weight said after his team went 0-for-5 on the power play and surrendered two shorthanded goals that ended up the difference in a 6-4 loss to the Wild on Thursday night.

“Flip passes, half-speed breakouts — just abysmal,” Weight said. “And it [ticks] you off because it’s a winnable game.”

The Isles’ power play is now a league-worst 2-for-33 (6.1 percent) and has allowed five shorthanded goals.

Thursday was a mess from the very start.

Eric Staal’s breakaway goal to give the Wild a 3-0 lead just 7:26 in and Luke Kunin’s first NHL goal at 7:17 of the second period marked the second time this season that the Islanders had allowed two shorthanded goals in the same game.

Before this season, the Isles last allowed two shorthanded goals in one game in 2007-08. The five allowed is second-worst in the league and just shy of the seven and six shorthanded goals allowed in the last two seasons.

“It’s not two or five games now, it’s 10 games,” said Josh Bailey, who had three assists. “We’ve got to find a way.”

The Isles’ penalty kill seemed to give the team a boost, killing off 40 seconds of a five-on-three in the game’s first three minutes.

Thomas Greiss looked sharp in goal, fending off a Wild team that hadn’t produced much of late.

But then the mistakes came — fast, furious and costly. Adam Pelech tried a pass from below his goal line to Anthony Beauvillier before he turned to look. Greiss denied Jared Spurgeon’s point shot, but Marcus Foligno was alone in front to sweep home the rebound at 4:56.

Thomas Hickey’s wall pass went right into Mikael Granlund, who fed Jason Zucker for another goal at 6:09. Then Staal was gifted a breakaway when Nick Leddy lost the puck and his balance at the Minnesota line, and it was 3-0 just that quick.

“It feels silly to say now, but we’re prepared, we’re excited for this game and we’ve got some energy,” Hickey said. “The PK should be a momentum-builder. We didn’t follow through.”

The Isles hung around, with Beauvillier cutting it to 3-1 after a period and Leddy cutting it to 4-2 after two.

But the damage was done; Weight put Cal Clutterbuck in Johnny Boychuk’s spot on the top power-play unit and Clutterbuck couldn’t handle an entry pass at the Wild blue line, leading to a two-on-one and Kunin’s goal in the second.

“You’ve got a team with some injury problems and you get through that span early,” Weight said. “Then a couple guys turn the wrong way, we try to go through a guy — just gifts.”

Zack Mitchell and Jonas Brodin expanded the Wild lead to 6-2 before Anders Lee and Mathew Barzal’s late goals made for a more respectable final score.

But the Isles’ problems of starting slow and not converting on the power play have lingered throughout their 10 games.

Weight promised changes to the power play starting with Friday’s practice in Nashville. “You have to go out and win battles [on the power play], fight for pucks to get back,” he said. “Overhandling, soft plays, it’s just embarrassing. The guys should look in the mirror. I don’t take any less blame, but you’re damn right they need to.”

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