Not tonight. - Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo
A game that demanded a strong response after Monday's embarrassing loss ended up being ... just a game.
The New York Islanders went into Ottawa and were ... okay. Not great, not horrid. Good enough for a close NHL game, lacking finish enough to let Craig Anderson pad his stats in the Senators' 3-1 win. They outshot (38-26) and at times outplayed the injury-ravaged Senators, but mistakes on both the offensive end and goaltending end equated to the Isles' seventh regulation loss in the last nine games.
We wondered how they'd respond after a franchise-record embarrassing loss Monday, and they responded like a team destined to settle outside the playoff bubble: Not with a dominating and angry performance, but not with another rollover either.
With no John Tavares heroics on this night, it fell to Travis Hamonic to provide the only offense, leading the team with six shots (though every Islander except Matt Martin, Joe Finley and Casey Cizikas registered at least one). Hamonic scored the lone goal, finishing from the slot after Marty Reasoner found him with a nice backhand pass shortly after Kyle Okposo woke up on the forecheck.
That goal, early in the third period, re-injected some hope into the process after the Isles fell behind 2-0 in the second period despite outshooting the Senators 25-17 through two periods. The Isles rode the Tavares line and plenty of shifts from Mark Streit, Travis Hamonic and Lubomir Visnovsky as they vied for the tying goal, but it wasn't in the cards.
A charitable insurance goal was conceded with 2:35 left after Rick DiPietro bobbled an easy rebound, effectively ending the game. The Isles pulled the goalie for nearly two minutes and somehow didn't concede an empty netter this time, but they didn't threaten with the sixth attacker either.
This Islanders road trip now moves on to Montreal Thursday and Buffalo Saturday, but if we're bird-dogging beatable opponents then the Islanders just lost to two of them in the struggling Flyers and the Spezza- and Karlsson-less Sens.
- Craig Anderson was good. Not 37-save, steal-the-game good, but he made stops the Isles goalies do not make, calmly diffusing scrambles and finding pucks through traffic.
- It's not popular among Isles fans to credit Reasoner for anything, but given some offensive zone time (four defensive draws vs. seven draws elsewhere), he made a nice play on the goal and showed a few of his latent offensive instincts. Not that another team will be biting based on that.
- Another goat, the now-third-liner Kyle Okposo, did a few good things mixed with what have become all-too-predictable mind-boggling things. He created two open men in the slot on a third-period rush by faking a slapshot with a big windup... only to go through with the shot and send it far wide. As good as a clear. Worse though was his overactive holding penalty in the second period that spoiled some good Isles momentum and gave the Sens a powerplay....
- ...No worries though, right? Because the Senators hadn't scored on 24 consecutive powerplay chances. Naturally their first chance went in, via Colin Greening. Andre Benoit then scored two minutes later on a long shot through traffic. (The Senators also got two first NHL goals in one game, with both Benoit and Dave Dziurzynski each getting game pucks.)
Josh Bailey had a few chances, hitting the crossbar one one ... and passing on another. To be fair, he registered three shots on goal. He and Okposo clearly have talent -- we've seen it before -- but it's not being harnessed and they are frankly not meeting expectations the franchise has for them.
- A faceoff maestro of late, Casey Cizikas only took three draws. He and Colin McDonald skated just over eight minutes.
With different luck or a different combo of goalies, this game could have gone either way, so it's not cause for knives out like Monday afternoon. But the usual inadequacies were still on display. No questions were answered. The mulligans for moral victories expired several games ago.
Quotes via the Isles on Twitter:
Tavares: "Great that we played much better but the result is the same, the sour taste is the same."
Capuano: "The guys played hard. Each line gave us some good minutes and scoring opportunities. ... We have to bare down a little more."
Hamonic: "We have to be better. We have to generate more and get to those greasy areas. ... As defenseman, we've got to do a better job funneling pucks to the net to give our forwards more opportunities."