PHILADELPHIA -- More fragile play. Another defenseman hurt. Another late, futile rally. Still no answers to this Islanders funk.
Saturday night's 5-2 loss to the Flyers hit many of the same ugly notes the Isles have been stuck on during a slide that has reached seven straight road losses and eight regulation defeats in the last 10 games.
The slight variation Saturday night was the speed with which the game got away from them. After a safe, smart first period, the Islanders collapsed, giving up three goals in a 3:02 span to leave heads hanging again.
"They're a little fragile, no question," said Jack Capuano, whose team slid to 8-13-3, five games under .500 for the first time since Jan. 16, 2011. "We've got to battle through it."
The battle part was missing at key times, such as on the opening shift of the second period. Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald fumbled a couple of breakout attempts and Kevin Poulin had to make an acrobatic stop on Sean Couturier. The rebound went right through a few stationary Isles bodies to Matt Read, who buried the opening goal 46 seconds into the period.
At 1:45, Wayne Simmonds beat a defenseless Poulin off the rush. Thomas Vanek took a needless hooking minor in the Flyers' zone at 3:17 and the dismal Islanders penalty-killing unit surrendered another one.
MacDonald was clipped with a high stick right off the faceoff, holding a hand over his eye to no avail. Claude Giroux drilled home a puck at 3:48, forcing Capuano to remove Poulin as an act of mercy and give Anders Nilsson his first goaltending work of the season.
"It definitely seems like [we're unable to handle swings] with the results we've been getting," said MacDonald, who was hit with an unsportsmanlike-conduct minor for yelling at the officials for the missed high stick. "There's too many mental lapses."
John Tavares tipped home a feed from Vanek at 14:04 of the second and Eric Boulton scored at 2:39 of the third, his first goal since April 7, 2011 -- and the Islanders were in it again.
They managed to go down to five defensemen for a long stretch for the second straight night, this time losing Thomas Hickey after he blocked a shot in the second. There was no update after the game.
Another defensive-zone lapse allowed Brayden Schenn through a crowd to beat Nilsson at 12:21. Two late Islanders power plays went for nothing as they got zero points on another week-long road trip.
"I don't know. I don't know," Frans Nielsen said when asked what the solution is to this run of poor play. "If we knew, we'd do it. We have to stand together and figure this out fast. We know we're still a good team. I don't know what to say."
The Islanders have three days until the start of a four-game homestand Wednesday. Perhaps there will be some answers, something to seize upon to escape the Metro Division cellar.
"If it was structural or systematic, we'd change things as coaches," Capuano said. "It's battles, it's wall positions and good sticks. That's part of every system. You can't do anything but win those battles."