These are the kinds of games that fuel fans' vitriol.
All teams are susceptible to letdowns after moments they're feeling like they've been a good dog, but the New York Islanders truly piddled all over the proverbial rug Monday afternoon at Nassau Coliseum. Presented with a chance to create a winning streak against Atlantic Division rivals as the most haggard of those rivals showed up to Nassau Coliseum Monday afternoon, they instead rolled over and played dead.
Rather than follow up Saturday's route of the Devils with a sign that this team is collectively ready to handle the day-to-day demands of the NHL, they promptly received a beating of their own.
It was the first real blowout the Isles have suffered this season, and unlike the travel-weary Flyers, the Isles had no excuse to show up so flat and lifeless. That description applied up and down the lineup, too. Fans who spent their bank holiday afternoon at the game were spiritually kicked in the stomach. Fan who had to work during this one can be thankful the Islanders won't be spoiling their Monday evening.
The Flyers were determined to get off to a good start after they felt they were "going through the motions" during recent games. They got that, as the Isles' top line fell asleep in the opening minute and allowed Claude Giroux to get in behind the defense all alone on Evgeni Nabokov. High shot, goal, 1-0 Flyers just 0:26 into the game.
It could have gotten worse very quickly, as the Flyers had odd-man chances and several hairy moments on a powerplay where Frans Nielsen was left without a stick while John Tavares was off for tripping Giroux.
Later, the Islanders had a chance to get their legs back on this sleepy afternoon when they were gifted a full two-minute 5-on-3 powerplay. But the ensuing opportunity played out like they really were hung over, with them missing passes, yielding unnecessary turnovers, shooting wide, and ultimately moving around the perimeter far more than they got the Flyers three-man unit to move. All of the motion did little to create passing or shooting lanes, and the kill wasn't so much to the Flyers' credit as to the Islanders' folly.
With Peter Laviolette rightly working the refs, the Flyers were handed some version of a makeup call -- though hardly equal to a 5-on-3 -- when an after-whistle scrum landed only Tavares in the box for unsportsmanlike conduct after he facewashed Brayden Schenn. (The Flyers were clearly trying to unsettle Tavares between whistles, fresh off his 1st Star of the Week honor.)
Fortunately, the Isles killed off that powerplay and escaped the first period with a very reversible 1-0 deficit.
Not satisfied with giving up a goal 26 seconds into the first period, the same top Islanders were again victimized by the Giroux line by Matt Read's goal 15 seconds into the middle frame. Impressive.
The obligatory "Wake the #$% up!" fight ensued, Matt Martin dutifully doing the deed with Wayne Simmonds a couple minutes later, but that changed nothing about the game's trajectory. The beating continued.
Two additional Flyers goals followed before the second intermission, which the Islanders apparently spent conceiving of ways to get Zac Rinaldo his first goal of the season. Rinaldo scored 3:31 into the third period, the Islanders admirably surviving three whole minutes before conceding an entry on to that period's sheet.
That was followed later in the period by Daniel Briere's fourth and fifth goals of the season, because why not let the division rival bust all its slumps in one cathartic day?
It's difficult to describe and frustrating to watch just how inert the Islanders play was after two desperately needed big wins over division rivals. The powerplay, so good in most of their wins this season, did not suffer from poor luck -- which is to be expected from time to time -- but rather from lazy plays and big mistakes, whether it be a Kyle Okposo penalty to negate a powerplay, a Brad Boyes shot well wide and turnover at the blueline, and even John Tavares passing off just enough to disarm potential one-timers.
I don't know at what point they went from "C'mon, we can come back in this" to, "You know what? It's just not our day," but suffice to say that a team that needs every break it can get to keep its stated playoff hopes alive can't afford mulligans in winnable situations (pre-game, anyway) like this.
Instead, it became the worst home shutout loss in franchise history.
- As the score got worse and the fading chances of any comeback fully disappeared in the second period, the Islanders got sloppy and more individually desperate, their structure and discipline completely breaking down. The rest of the game was a formality, devoid of ideas but well-populated with further moments of humiliation.
- David Ullstrom had a team-low 7:55 of ice time. Victim of special teams, or prelude to another doghouse?
- Okay, technically Ullstrom's wasn't a team low: Brian Strait left the game early in the second period after 7:16 of ice time, an apparent leg injury doing him in. [Update: Staple says it might be a broken ankle.]
- With Jack Capuano talking this morning of not over-working Evgeni Nabokov, it's odd that Nabby was left in to suffer the entire beating. Personally I'd have given him a rest there and then gone right back to him tomorrow in Ottawa, giving Rick DiPietro some much-needed reps in a game where appeared determined to let their goalie do all the work.
We haven't used the term "embarrassing" in this recap yet, so we might as well get that in now, so that future searches of that term on this site shall bring up this finely crafted disaster. The Isles will have to do the proverbial "put this one behind you" and focus on getting out of town and preparing for the Senators tomorrow night. The 16,170 fans who showed up today don't have that luxury.