For a goal-starved team waiting to feast, Hurricanes' rookie goaltender Justin Peters must have been a tantalizing sight.
But the Islanders anemic offense could not spoil Peters’ 34-save NHL debut, as the team dropped a season-worst seven straight games with a 3-1 loss to Carolina and sunk even lower in the Eastern Conference standings.
The team’s punchless power-play also came up short for the fifth straight game (0-for-19 during that span) after five failed attempts last night.
How bad does the team need a win right now?
“About as bad as you could possibly need a win,” said goaltender Rick DiPietro, who made 22 saves last night. “We need a spark, something to turn it around.”
As was revealed in a first-intermission television interview, team owner Charles Wang seems to have as little luck duking it out against Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray as the Islanders had facing Peters last night.
Wang lamented the stalemate of the Lighthouse Project and said he has had no communication with the Town of Hempstead since September.
“Our hope and our love is Nassau County and Long Island. We want to be here, but in order to do something, you have to communicate,” Wang said to on-air personality Howie Rose.
As Wang struggled to paint a rosy picture of the team's future, his team had floundered on the ice.
Lurking in the crease, Jussi Jokinen scored his 20th goal of the season by tipping in a puck that bounced first off Andy Sutton’s skate then DiPietro’s stick at 14:32 of the first period.
The Islanders appeared to strike back with their own greasy goal early in the second period, when John Tavares made a nifty no-look feed from the end boards that Matt Moulson jammed through at 1:42.
The elation subsided quickly however, once the goal was waved off and the play was ruled dead before the puck crossed the goal line.
“We shouldn’t have to play a perfect game to win, but that’s the way it feels right now,” coach Scott Gordon said.
The Islanders tied the game later in the second period, on a shorthanded goal no less.
Blake Comeau’s aggressive forechecking and puck pursuit allowed him to snatch the puck from Hurricanes defenseman Joni Pitkanen along the boards and dish to the slot, where Frans Nielsen’s surgical strike served as the equalizer at 9:25.
After DiPietro stopped Brandon Sutter’s wraparound attempt, Patrick Dwyer took a successful hack and scored the go-ahead goal at 15:36.
With a minute to play and DiPietro heading toward the bench, the Islanders turned the puck over and DiPietro couldn’t scramble back fast enough to prevent Pitkanen from tallying on an empty net for a late-game insurance goal.
Indicative of the team’s snowballing scoring troubles, touted rookie John Tavares has now gone ten straight games without a goal.
Although Tavares sizzled throughout the first half of the season, the 2009 No. 1 overall pick has only six points—two goals and four assists—in the past 26 games. Tavares had 15 goals in the first 31 games and was on pace for a 32-goal, 54-point season at the midway point of the season, just as his production began to cool.
“We needed more life, more urgency,” Tavares said of last night's performance.
With four game remaining before the Olympic break, the wins now become even more important for a team on the outskirts of contention.
“It’s huge,” Moulson said. “This could basically determine the season these next couple of games.”