Jack Capuano was less heated Friday than he had been right after the Islanders' 3-2 loss to the Kings on Thursday night, but he was no less disappointed in the way his team gave away a chance to earn at least a point despite being outplayed.
"Five minutes left, you're not playing your best game, you've got to realize points are big right now," Capuano said. "If you've got to play defensive hockey for a shift, that's what you do."
Capuano didn't criticize anyone specifically, but that key shift inside of five minutes left in a tie game likely will cause a shift in the lines for Saturday's game with the Ducks at the Coliseum, where the Isles are winless in six straight (0-5-1).
John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey have been linemates pretty much since Okposo returned March 10 after missing 22 games because of a detached retina. In the seven games since, Tavares has two points and the Isles have one win. That line was on the ice for Anze Kopitar's game-winner Thursday, when Okposo failed on a one-handed clearing attempt a few seconds before the goal.
"They know. You don't have to say anything to those guys; they're the leaders of this team," Capuano said. "They know they have to be better in that situation, and when we talk about puck management, we're talking about clock management as well. As coaches, you trust your leaders. They won't do the same thing again."
Capuano hasn't decided on any lines or possible lineup shuffles -- Lubomir Visnovsky skated Friday and could return after missing the last four games -- but it seems likely that Tavares and Okposo will be split up this weekend, with the Red Wings coming to the Coliseum on Sunday.
"It might be time to take a step back, take some pressure off those guys and put them with some different players," Capuano said.
Tavares had plenty of success with Bailey and Anders Lee during Okposo's absence. Okposo has had success over the years with Frans Nielsen.
But there's a limit to what Capuano and his staff can do to snap the Islanders out of their skid. They have scored 10 goals in the last seven games.
"We continue to coach, to teach, but this is the players' time," Capuano said. "It's exciting to be where we are this time of year and the players have held themselves accountable all year long. It's their time."