It was another multi-goal deficit and another comeback fallen just short as the New York Islanders dropped their fourth game in a row and ninth regulation loss in their last 11 games. Two Winnipeg Jets goals late in the second period made it a daunting 3-0 deficit. Two Islanders goals spaced through the rest of the game weren't enough.
Run of Show
After a competitive first period in which the Isles missed on two power plays -- and Dustin Byfuglien made some kick saves off the line -- the Jets had the better of play in the middle frame. Kevin Poulin had kept it scoreless with an outstanding stretch save on Matt Halischuk. But the Jets' work was finally rewarded with a seeing-eye Mark Stuart point shot through traffic to open scoring at the midway point.
Thanks to a poor but probably harsh penalty on Olli Jokinen, the Islanders power play finally did something and salvaged a goal before the break. Andrew MacDonald -- who hit the post back when the game was 0-0 -- scored to make it 3-1 and provide some hope at the second intermission.
It was a mostly frustrating third period as the Jets played it safe and smart, dumping and chipping a lot around the Isles attempts at a comeback. Coach Jack Capuano mixed some lines, putting Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Brock Nelson on with Frans Nielsen for a spell. (Nielsen's line was not faring well against the Jets' top line with Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler.) Nielsen hit the post on one shot, another deflating omen that it again would not be the Isles' night.
But John Tavares brought the Isles back to within a goal with just six minutes left on a nice effort by him down the right wing around Tobias Enstrom but with a goal Al Montoya should never have allowed. (If only Montoya had been more like that earlier, instead of robbing the Isles before and afteward.)
A minute later, Kyle Okposo drove the right wing and drew a soft, fortunate hooking call on Jacob Trouba. The Islanders did well to create chances that got fans out of their seats on this power play -- a Thomas Vanek deflection stopped by Al Montoya, then two golden chances for Kyle Okposo and one for Thomas Vanek in quick succession -- but no dice. The threat ended with an Andrew MacDonald turnover at the blueline that forced a Kevin Poulin breakaway save on Evander Kane.
That wound the clock down to just 2:16 remaining in regulation when Pierre-Marc Bouchard took a hooking penalty. If the Isles were to tie the game, they'd have to do it shorthanded or else in the dying seconds.
You knew that wasn't happening.
Well, you might have thought that this would be the pivotal moment, the resurrection, the moment when the tide finally turns back the Isles' way and the season takes an inspiring turn. But then you would be the type who tunes in or pays to see this team the day before Thanksgiving, amidst an fast-spiraling slump.
The Takeaway: Even Deceiving Looks Can Become Reality
This wasn't a dominant effort by either team, just another close game where the Isles came out on the short end. In open play it could have gone either way, but the Jets' three goals came: 1) off a faceoff and screen shot, 2) off a neutral zone turnover by a rookie, and 3) off a deflection.
Even when the Isles aren't getting blown out or run out of the building, that's just how it's going.
Despite the record, despite appearances, despite the fury of fans, they actually aren't objectively playing anywhere near as bad as their results make it look right now. That's of little help, of course, but it's an honest assessment.
Alas, when your margin is this thin (often narrowed by poor goaltending, though not tonight) and your special teams aren't helping give you a boost (Lubomir Visnovsky's absence continues to hurt), you end up here: Your best nights are still just "we played a little better than those guys, but came out on the wrong end," and you're vulnerable to streaks like this.
With two more chances for "just short" this weekend, the question consuming many minds now is how long they can let it last before they do something more drastic.
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