Had the Islanders played with the urgency they displayed in the third period of last night’s 4-1 loss, they would’ve had a good chance to leap frog several of the teams huddled in the middle of the Eastern Conference.
But, they didn’t.
Instead, they began a four-game road trip by dropping their third straight to a Carolina team playing with a contagious amount of confidence.
“We didn’t play with enough desperation,” said coach Scott Gordon, “In the third period we did, but not the first two periods.”
When asked if that was the message delivered by the seething coach, Josh Bailey affirmed.
“Pretty much,” Bailey said. “They outplayed us tonight.”
Down by a pair of goals in the third period, the Islanders showed the fight and mettle that has defined this hard-working Islanders team this season. Even after unleashing a barrage of 15 shots against Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward, however, the Islanders couldn’t erase the Carolina deficit.
The Islanders sniffed comeback potential after drawing a penalty midway through the period after feisty Jon Sim’s crashed the front of the net, but a short-handed goal 21 seconds into the power play served as the back-breaker.
Stephane Yelle scored the Hurricanes’ second special-teams goal of the night with a shorthanded tally to put the Islanders in a 3-0 hole at 9:40.
The puck bounced off defenseman Mark Streit’s skate in the Islanders’ offensive zone and squirted through, allowing Yelle to score his first goal in 28 games by lifting it past Rick DiPietro at 9:40. In his fifth start of the year, DiPietro gave up 3 goals on 22 shots.
“It hurt, obviously, but we needed to bounce back and we didn’t,” Bailey said. “We’ve got to score more than one goal a game anyway, so we can’t blame it on that.”
The Islanders lone goal came from Matt Moulson, who became the first Islander in two seasons to reach the 20-goal plateau.
Moulson spoiled Ward’s shutout with his 20th goal of the season, burying Frans Nielsen’s backhanded feed at 15:29.
Ward, who delivered a stellar 37-save performance the night before against the Rangers, made 26 saves against the Islanders last night.
Despite a deceptively-good Islanders even-strength performance in the first period, the Hurricanes scored two goals on their first eight shots.
Newly-anointed Hurricanes captain Eric Staal had ample space down low to bury his own rebound to give Carolina a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal at 9:19.
Since replacing Rod Brind’Amour as captain, Staal has scored eight goals in five games, including a hat trick the first night he donned the “C” on his sweater January 21 against Atlanta.
Matt Cullen built on Carolina’s lead with a wristshot from the right circle that beat goaltender Rick DiPietro at 12:12.
There was a dearth of offensive opportunities for both teams in a scoreless second period –Carolina outshot the Islanders 5-3--and the Islanders couldn’t cut into the Hurricanes lead with their first power-play of the game.
With Aaron Ward in the box for tripping, the Islanders produced only one shot on goal with the man-advantage—Doug Weight’s deflection at 14:52.
While their output improved dramatically in the third period, the results didn’t. Jussi Jokinen scored an empty-netter at 19:15 and the Hurricanes charged to their third straight win.
A stark contrast from the Hurricanes’ recent success, the Islanders have now lost four out of their last five game.