Ryan Callahan of the Rangers and Mark Streit of the...

Ryan Callahan of the Rangers and Mark Streit of the Islanders jostle for the puck. (Feb. 7, 2013) Credit: David Pokress

Worse than the three straight losses within their division, worse than the 0-for-19 skid by the power play and worse than a 4-1 loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden was this fact: The Islanders didn't work hard enough Thursday night.

That is a killer for this team, and the Isles were too lackluster too often to have a shot against a struggling Rangers team.

"Some guys played tentative, some guys didn't take hits to make plays," Jack Capuano said. "I'm disappointed with some guys' battle level tonight."

The Islanders have been down this road before -- way, way farther down, in fact. They were 4-1-2 to start 2010-11 before a 1-17-3 skid, then 3-1-0 last season before a 2-12-4 slide.

This season, the Isles were 4-2-1 and playing solidly, especially on special teams. Less than a week later, they are under .500 and scratching their heads as to how their will and work ethic have slipped.

"For us to be successful, we have to have 18 guys and a goalie all on the same page, working harder than any other team," Andrew MacDonald said. "That's the only way we're going to get anywhere."

They went nowhere fast Thursday night. The power play continued its slide, adding five more failures to the 14 straight during the two previous games. It was particularly poor on three third-period chances in which the Rangers generated more offense shorthanded than the Isles did with an extra man.

"Our power play killed our momentum," Capuano said. "Absolutely destroyed it. We were slow, deliberate going back to get pucks. That deflates your bench."

And the Islanders allowed a power-play goal for a third straight game, this one on a breakaway in the second period. But the real problem was one that is starting to become a theme: The Islanders didn't win battles from the outset, standing and waiting for plays to materialize instead of taking the lead. And the Rangers, despite their own lack of enthusiasm during their ugly start to the season, saw an opportunity to seize the upper hand.

"We've got to play a full 60 minutes, top to bottom, starting with myself," said John Tavares, who scored the lone goal and whose line was the only one to generate sustained pressure. "We can't let teams off the hook early in games, especially ones in our division."

Lubomir Visnovsky will join the team at practice Friday and likely will make his Islanders debut Saturday against the Sabres at Nassau Coliseum. Josh Bailey also is likely to make his season debut.

Capuano might be eager to have two fresh bodies to change things up. Three straight losses is not a 1-17-3 skid or a 2-12-2 slide, but prorated over 48 games, it's not a blip on the radar, either.

"Whether it's 82 games, 48 games, three in a row is not acceptable," Evgeni Nabokov said. "Sometimes I think we are satisfied to be in close games, but there is enough talent in here to work hard and win games. This isn't good enough."

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