ST. LOUIS - The Islanders changed it up from their previous two games, fighting back from a two-goal deficit to pull even with the Blues Thursday night.
The one thing the Islanders didn't change from the previous two games was the result. Alex Steen's second goal of the game 4:32 into the third period snapped a tie, and the Islanders stopped doing what they'd done to erase a two-goal deficit.
The 6-3 final looked bad, but that came from three Blues goals (and one from Kyle Okposo) in the final 4:13. The damage was done by Steen on a rebound past Jaroslav Halak early in the third and continued when the Islanders flubbed around for much of a one-goal game in the final 20 minutes, a time frame in which the Isles have been outscored 11-1 during this three-game slide.
"We'll give up five a night if we keep mismanaging the puck like that," coach Jack Capuano said. His team went 0-for-3 on the power play and 0-for-2 on the penalty kill, giving the Blues five power-play goals in seven tries in the two games against them in the past week.
That first match with St. Louis at Nassau Coliseum last Saturday featured a blown 3-0 lead and a 6-4 loss. In St. Paul on Tuesday, another 3-0 lead turned sour in a 5-4 loss to the Wild.
Thursday night was different. The Isles were sluggish in the first and Halak, back from a minor ailment to play in his old stamping grounds, gave up a couple of screened long-range goals as the Isles fell behind 2-0.
In the second, Capuano changed his forward lines regularly and the Isles got goals from John Tavares at 16:03 and Mikhail Grabovski with 5.3 seconds to go, giving them some serious life heading to the third.
The Isles controlled the opening few shifts but Steen was all alone to bury a rebound behind Halak with all three Isles forwards on the opposite side of the ice on the back check.
"It's tough to swallow because we had a better overall effort," Tavares said. "We had some good moments, but you have to grab it against a good team like this."
Instead, the Blues were the ones pushing for the clincher rather than the Islanders pressing for the tie. Eric Boulton got a shift with Tavares and Okposo inside of 5:30 to play with the score still 3-2, and Capuano made mention of why after the game.
"He skates straight ahead and brings some physicality," he said. "We had two shots through 13 minutes in the third. We changed the lines in the second period and we started to grind it out and do some good things. Maybe we should keep changing it up every shift to get them to manage the puck better."
The late flurry started with T.J. Oshie's goal at 15:47, followed by Paul Stastny's power-play goal at 17:48. Okposo scored at 18:16 and Jaden Schwartz scored into an empty net at 18:56, the slow-moving puck barely crossing the goal line out of Tavares' reach.
"That empty-net goal pretty much summed up the night," Calvin de Haan said. "We've had some bad bounces, bad luck maybe. It's frustrating. I don't know what to say."
After allowing 17 goals in three losses, there isn't much left.