MONTREAL - The Islanders have been ready to play just about every night this season. Their starts to games and periods have been a big part of their success.
But they looked a step slow off the draws in all three periods Saturday night. The Canadiens made them pay, scoring early in all three periods in a 6-4 victory over the Islanders that was as sloppy a game as the Isles have played all season.
"We shot ourselves in the foot all night. We were just chasing," Cal Clutterbuck said. "It was a back-to-back for us, but when you give up the lead that early, you're just chasing, and it wears on you."
Ryan Strome took a penalty behind the Canadiens' net 54 seconds into the game, setting the wrong tone a night after the Isles rallied for a 6-3 win over the Penguins at the Coliseum.
The Isles' problematic penalty kill then surrendered the opening goal on P.K. Subban's one-timer at 1:56.
That was the only goal of the first period as the Islanders got some of their mojo back with good five-on-five play. But they fell behind by two goals 10 seconds into the second period when Tomas Plekanec fed Dale Weise for a tip-in after a bouncing puck gave the Canadiens a break-in.
The Islanders again steadied themselves, cutting their deficit to one twice on goals by Kyle Okposo (his fifth in two games) and Nikolay Kulemin, sandwiched around another power-play goal surrendered to Plekanec.
But it still was an ugly effort, with Jaroslav Halak bailing out his teammates in the second with a couple of big saves.
"I had us for 17 giveaways the first two periods," Jack Capuano said. "That's a season high for us."
The Islanders were flat to open the third, too, and the Canadiens pounced. After Travis Hamonic's pass was intercepted by David Desharnais, Brendan Gallagher's shot was blocked, but the puck settled on Alex Galchenyuk's stick and he beat Halak 52 seconds into the period.
Halak, making starts on consecutive nights, was pulled with 6:17 to play after Plekanec scored on a two-on-one for a 6-2 lead. Desharnais had scored from all alone in the slot 2:27 before that.
"We made it tough on our goaltender tonight," said John Tavares, who followed a goal by Anders Lee with a late power-play goal (his 20th overall). "We made it too easy for them."
Capuano wouldn't blame the back-to-back scenario, even coming off the emotional win over the Penguins.
"As a coaching staff, we were disappointed in a few guys," Capuano said. "Some guys looked like they were just trying to survive a shift instead of making good plays . . . When you mismanage the puck against a good team, this is what can happen."
The Islanders have one more game -- Monday afternoon at the Coliseum against the Flyers -- before an eight-day break for the All-Star Game. They have shown plenty of poise and resiliency coming off subpar games like Saturday night's, which was the first time the Islanders had been outshot or given up more than 28 shots in a game since Dec. 11 in St. Louis, a span of 15 games.
"It was just a lot of really uncharacteristic mistakes by us," Clutterbuck said. "Hard to win that way."
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