Doug Weight’s eyebrow-raising experiment didn’t last long.
Midway through the first period, John Tavares was again a center after starting the game on rookie Mathew Barzal’s left wing as the Islanders coach sought to change the momentum from an early two-goal deficit.
“I played 71 games at center, things aren’t always going to happen in one or two shifts,” Tavares said. “It is what it is. Doug put me back in the middle so I just tried to adapt and get back to the role I’m supposed to play there.”
Tavares had three assists, Anders Lee scored twice on the power play, including his career-high 35th goal and the Islanders tied the game twice. Yet they still opened a five-game homestand with a 4-3 loss to the Hurricanes on Sunday at Barclays Center.
The Islanders (30-32-10), in losing their third straight as their overall slide worsened to 1-7-4, missed a chance to escape last place in the Metropolitan Division. Defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, given an open shooting lane, scored the winner with 6:49 left in the third period.
“I think it’s been some of the worst,” Lee said of the Islanders’ mounting losses. “It’s so frustrating what we’ve gone through. We keep trying to right the ship. We haven’t been able to find our way. We kind of lost our mojo this second half of the season. Unfortunately, it just tumbled out of control.”
Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak made 35 saves in his second straight start while Scott Darling stopped 26 shots for the Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes took a quick 2-0 lead as Jaccob Slavin’s shot from the left point deflected in off defenseman Adam Pelech at 2:50 and Lee Stempniak, playing in his 900th NHL game, intercepted the puck and scored unassisted at 4:44.
But the Islanders did respond after Weight moved Tavares back between Lee and Josh Bailey and Barzal centered Anthony Beauvillier and Jordan Eberle.
“Stuff happens sometimes,” Bailey said. “I wasn’t really thinking too much about it either way.”
“It wasn’t planned or disappointment with what we had as much as when you see a goalie change, we had to get some change in momentum,” Weight added. “I thought Johnny’s line was good.”
Bailey brought the Islanders within 2-1 as he deflected Ryan Pulock’s point shot at 10:29 of the second period and Lee’s power-play goal 1:53 later tied it. But Victor Rask, getting to the crease, scored less than two minutes after that as the Hurricanes regained the lead at 3-2.
Lee’s second power-play goal, his career-high 35th goal of the season, tied it at 3 at 8:05 of the third period.
Weight cited the Islanders’ performance over the final two periods as proof his players have not quit on the season.
“That’s not a concern, no,” Weight said.
“We want to try to give our fans something to cheer about and be proud of,” Bailey said. “Not only them but ourselves. It’s not from lack of effort in here. Everyone really cares and wants to win no matter the circumstances.”
Notes & quotes: Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho hooked Islanders defenseman Sebastian Aho at 7:24 of the third period . . . The Islanders’ Aho logged 13:33 after being a healthy scratch the previous six games as Brandon Davidson was held out because of upper-body soreness . . . Fourth-line left wing Ross Johnston also did not play because of soreness after earning a game misconduct in Friday’s 6-3 loss at Washington for his fight with Tom Wilson. Chris Wagner, a healthy scratch the past three games, took his spot and had 11:10 of ice time.