Almost as significant as the Islanders regulation loss in Ottawa, in the grand scheme of things, was Atlanta and Tampa Bay hilariously deciding their game in extra time last night to create three unneeded points. With the shootout loss, the Lightning now sit in 29th place, six points ahead of the Islanders with 10 games to play. Phoenix -- a recently emerging tanking threat -- somehow slaughtered Vancouver 5-1, too.
Yes yes, sure, anything can happen, and the Islanders are headed back home, where they've been more formidable. But we've preached that the just-completed six-game road string would provide separation, and it did. We've preached that a margin this big, this late, is too much for a playoff bubble team -- not to mention a last-place team. And it will likely prove so.
I'm as reluctant to count my Brett Lindros chickens before they hatch as anyone. But for the first time since the Islanders turned over a new youth-inspired leaf late this season, I'm again feeling very sure that next summer will see either Tavares or Hedman slipping on the Orange and Blue. The points are now stacked too well in their favor.
Oh wait, what? There was a game? Suppose there was.
I felt bad for the 50 or so Islanders Booster Club members who made the trek to see losses in Carolina and Ottawa after the team has otherwise done so well lately. With the four-goal onslaught in the second period, it looked like it would be ugly and there would be little to cheer for all those traveling Isles fans in a most tasteful shade of blue.
Fortunately Josh Bailey had other ideas, logging the first two-goal game of the 19-year-old's young NHL career. Kyle Okposo setting him up in the slot for the one-timer gave me a double-take at their reversal of roles. Despite the mini-milestone, Bailey struck the proper future-captain's tone:
"As far as myself, it was only a good third period. My first two periods were off big time and I think that goes along with the rest of the team, too.
Interesting that less-heralded newbie Mike Iggulden got only 8:49 of ice time ... Yann Danis did not look sharp in his first game action in a week. The first goal in particular saw the puck squeak through the way it so often does right after a defensive zone turnover, before a goalie is totally mentally set ... Speaking of such turnovers: Rough game for Dean McAmmond, who has played much better than that since coming over from Ottawa and surely wished to leave a better impression than that on his old team.
And speaking of that fateful trade, Chris Campoli was fairly anonymous in 21 minutes (just 1:08 on the PP). Worse for Campoli: The guy whose offensive inadequacy he was brought in to supplement, Filip Kuba, notched the second Senators goal on a smart pinch. (Mike Comrie, of course, was still out with a vicious strain of flu.)
The game was out of reach and fairly chaotic in the third period, but the Islanders at least came out with intent to salvage something from this final period of the road trip, led by Joel Rechlicz's physical presence. (And what do you know? Chris Neil chirped, checked him into an open gate, but did not drop the gloves? Credit to Mike Fisher for standing up to Rechlicz after his one-track hit on Chris Phillips. Neil? Not so much.)
So the Isles won the period 2-1, putting young names all over the scoresheet. Not much solace in that against the strangely surging Sens, who are now one game over shootout-loss-aided quasi-.500. But not much solace is needed when a grander scheme is at work.