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Losses tough to take for John Tavares, Islanders

John Tavares of the Islanders controls the puck

John Tavares of the Islanders controls the puck in the first period against Ryan McDonagh of the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. (Jan. 31, 2014) Credit: Jim McIsaac

John Tavares sat in the penalty box as the final seconds ticked off, a fitting end to a frustrating night for the Islanders' captain and leading scorer.

If Friday night's 4-1 loss to the Rangers was the final blow to the Islanders' already slim playoff hopes, it was a real dagger. The Isles' fifth straight game without a win was their second straight loss to their archrivals, the second straight in which the Islanders believed they played well enough to be better than 1-1 after two periods. It also was their second straight game with a key breakdown in the third that led to the loss.

"Every loss . . . it's so magnified for us right now with the wins we need, the points we need," said Tavares, who was held without a point for the third straight game, his longest drought of the season. "This one, the outdoor game -- we've had some opportunities going into third periods, we've been in a lot of games and we just haven't gotten the job done."

Tavares' red-hot top line, with Thomas Vanek and Kyle Okposo, was the toast of the league for a month. Tavares rocketed up the scoring leader chart to second, behind Sidney Crosby, and Okposo put together career numbers.

Okposo has continued his pace, scoring his 24th goal Friday night after extending his shift past the end of an Islanders power play in the second period, but the top line continued to sputter.

The lack of scoring at even strength and the lack of power-play success -- the Islanders are 0-for-19 on the power play during the five-game skid -- led to Tavares whacking Carl Hagelin on the hand with 1:54 left, sending the Islanders' captain to the penalty box to while away the rest of the loss.

The top line, especially on the power play, was guilty of trying to be too perfect rather than just firing away at Henrik Lundqvist, who was superb. The lone Islanders goal came off Calvin de Haan's long-range shot that was deflected, bounced out of Lundqvist's glove and went down to Okposo.

"You get chances, you've got to put them in," Tavares said. "They slide around and try to get in the way, and tonight and the other night, they got in the way of a lot of shots."

The key failure was a third-period power play with 12:31 left and the score tied. The Islanders had grabbed the momentum with a strong second period, withstood a push from the Rangers at the start of the third and were generating more to get to that power play.

But they put only two shots on Lundqvist and let the opportunity slip.

"Yeah, this one hurts more, especially against these guys," de Haan said. "I don't think we played that bad. But that's not enough this time of year."

Notes & quotes:D Travis Hamonic (concussion) skated on his own on Long Island on Friday. He previously skated Monday in hopes of returning for Wednesday's outdoor game but felt more symptoms and ended up on injured reserve instead.


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