Last night was more than just the Islanders' fifth straight loss. More than the inability to respond from Saturday's embarrassing defeat in Philadelphia and more than the 13 goals given up over the last two games.
Last night was about a team that has unraveled to a point so far removed from their trademark gritty, hard-working style that it is hard to imagine they were vying for the top of the Eastern Conference standings only a few weeks ago.
Looking to rebound from Saturday’s demoralizing dud — a 6-1 loss to the Flyers in Philadelphia — the Islanders sunk even lower Wednesday with a listless 7-2 loss to Carolina marked by defensive breakdowns, bad decisions with and without the puck, and, once again, a poor start.
"We're extremely disappointed. We wanted to come out with a better effort after the loss in Philly," defenseman Mike Mottau said. "We didn't put our best effort out there tonight and it showed on the scoreboard."
For the fifth straight game the Islanders gave up the first goal; last night it was defenseman Joe Corvo to strike first for Carolina.
Pressured on the forecheck by Chad LaRose behind the net, goaltender Rick DiPietro scrambled back to the net and collided with John Tavares, allowing Corvo’s point shot to get through at 10:12.
Corvo’s goal was the first for the Hurricanes at RBC Center this season; the team was shut out at home the previous two games.
Carolina tallied twice more in the first. Jon Matsumoto tapped in a nice feed from Sergei Samsonov for his first NHL goal at 15:48 and Samsonov collected another assist when captain Eric Staal’s one-timer beat DiPietro for a 3-0 Hurricanes lead at 18:51.
"That's certainly not the way we want to start against a team struggling to score at home," coach Scott Gordon said after the game. "Right now our play away from the puck-- all up and down the ice-- is hurting us."
The Islanders offered no response in the second period, giving up another pair of goals to fall behind 5-0.
The first of the two goals scored in the middle frame was a true back-breaker. DiPietro went to cover up an innocuous puck left in the crease, but it somehow squirted through his reach and was left for Brandon Sutter to bury at the left post at 9:40.
Sutter collected an assist on center Jiri Tlusty’s goal less than a minute later. Although Sutter made contact with DiPietro before the goal, nothing was called and the Hurricanes took a 5-0 lead.
"Things aren't going great," said DiPietro, who has started in goal in both of the Islanders recent clunkers. "You get in a slide like this and it's tough to get over it."
It was another tough night for DiPietro, but Gordon said he is not solely responsible.
"I'm not gonna pick him apart. There are certainly some goals he could've been better on, but there were a few he didn't have much of a chance on, either."
Michael Grabner and P.A. Parenteau scored for the Islanders in the third period, but it was much too little too late. Rookies Jeff Skinner and Matsumoto piled on third-period goals for Carolina.
With the second of back-to-back road games Thursday night against Ottawa, the Islanders must now search for a way to snap their troubling and growing slump.
"Attitude is one thing," defenseman Mark Eaton said. "We have to know we can better. We all know what we need to do to be successful; it's just a question of doing it for sixty minutes a night."