With one last stop remaining on a grueling five-city, 11-day tour across the Western Conference, the Islanders looked as if they had already begun packing in last night’s 5-0 shutout loss to Chicago.
Although the Islanders earned three wins in the first four games of their trip, they looked passive and lethargic against the reigning Stanley Cup Champions at United Center.
"We didn't come out hard enough in the beginning and we made it easy on them," said John Tavares of the team's poor start.
Letting the Blackhawks dictate play from the beginning, the Islanders saw an early 1-0 hole blow up in the second, by allowing four goals in the middle frame.
In his 3rd NHL start, 27-year-old call-up Nathan Lawson wasn’t very sharp but he received little help from his team, outshot by the Blackhawks 16-8 in the first period.
"I'd say we made it tough on him," coach Jack Capuano said when asked about the lack of help in front of Lawson. "Their offensive zone play was a lot of East-West behind the net. They found the soft areas and used their [defensemen] high and wide. That made it tough oneverybody, but especially Lawson."
The Islanders penalty kill, which entered last night’s contest 13-for-13 over the past five games, was tested early when both Milan Jurcina and Bruno Gervais headed to the box in the opening four minutes of play.
With Gervais in the box for holding Patrick Sharp tallied on the power-play from the left circle at 4:52. Kane picked up an assist on the goal, making a pretty cross-ice feed to find Sharp with an open shooting lane.
"We've been having rough starts the past couple of games, and that's something we need to fix," P.A. Parenteau said.
Building on Sharp’s first-period marker, Marian Hossa led the Blackhawks with three points in the second period for a 5-0 lead after forty minutes of play.
Hossa ripped one beneath Lawson’s right pad to extend Chicago’s lead at 2:10 and, after Patrick Kane tallied on an odd-man rush at 7:19, chipped in with assists on the next two goals scored by Dave Bolland and Niklas Hjalmarsson.
Speedy winger Michael Grabner had two of the best scoring chances for the Islanders—both breakaways—but converted on neither.
Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford, who recorded his first shutout of the season, stuffed him on a backhanded attempt in the first period, and Grabner lost a handle on the puck while on-on-one against Crawford in the second.
"It just jumped over my stick," Grabner said of second breakaway. "That first one, [Crawford] just made a great save; I probably should've held onto it a half a second longer."
Making his first appearance since receiving the quick hook from coach Jack Capuano in the team’s 2-1 loss to Edmonton Thursday, Lawson couldn’t deliver the bounce-back performance he and the team envisioned.
"Obviously that's what you expect from yourself," Lawson said. "I'm pretty disappointed in my effort tonight. I wish I could have some of those goals back
Lawson was recalled from Bridgeport before Monday’s game in Calgary after veteran Dwayne Roloson was traded to Tampa Bay last Saturday, only to be joined days later by fellow Sound Tigers netminder Kevin Poulin, who was called up after Rick DiPietro suffered a groin strain in the Islanders’ 5-2 win over the Flames.
Both have delivered strong performances in relief since joining the team, but with DiPietro’s tenuous health status looming again, the question must be asked:
Can these two rookies handle the bulk of the workload if necessary?
When reached via text Sunday night, general manager Garth Snow said he had no plans of adding a goaltender. Snow said that DiPietro, who flew back to New York for rest and evaluation Friday, should return “at some point this week.”
One thing is for sure, however. The Islanders will have to deliver a more well-rounded effort than last night, no matter who is in net.