The Islanders essentially lost this one within a three-minute span before the game was six minutes old. Back-breaking defensive mistakes and Pekka Rinne being Pekka Rinne saw to that.
Kevin Poulin, seeing game action for the first time in a week, helped the Islanders to an apparent NHL record for number of times in one season allowing the first shot on net to go in.
But all of the goals in the 3-0 first period were on prime counterattack scoring chances. Maybe Poulin was handcuffed on Sergei Kostitsyn's high-slot shot, and probably Matt Halischuk shouldn't have been able to pick the far corner, but both situations arose from neutral zone defensive blunders.
That put the Isles in an early funk, and the third Predators goal seemed to have the Islanders at their nadir: A 3-on-2 that shouldn't have been, with Kyle Okposo and Andrew MacDonald mixing up coverage.
Okposo, at the end of a long shift, diverted to the high man rather than the winger he was passively backchecking (and who got the primary assist). MacDonald -- normally a vocal communicator in such situations -- didn't read that situation to drop back.
If Rinne were more cooperative, the Islanders might have made a game of it: They poured 19 shots on him in the second period, including five on the powerplay (one on a lengthy 5-on-3 where the Isles missed trying to pick corners).
They finally solved Rinne in garbage time, John Tavares extending his point streak to nine by tipping in a Matt Moulson pass with just under four minutes remaining. Down two, the Islanders pulled the goalie with about 2:20 left, but the Predators had as many desperate heaves at the empty net as the Islanders did against Rinne in the waning minutes.
The huge financial commitment and cap space the budget-conscious Predators just gave to Rinne is extreme and may come back to hurt. But a performance like today shows why they thought he is that important.
First Goal: With the Islanders attempting a change, Brian Rolston was stripped in the neutral zone as he tried to gain the red line. Fortunately the puck went back to Mark Eaton, so no damage, right? Except that Eaton's forward pass for Jay Pandolfo was into no man's land, and the Predators took possession and gained the zone with speed. Good shot through the rushing bodies by Kostitsyn. Poulin got a piece of it, but not enough.
Second Goal: Steve Staios had a chance to dump the puck in but it was easily intercepted out of the air by Halischuk and taken the other way. Staios looked helpless, spinning and getting tangled up with another Predators forward as Halischuk sped by for his shot on Poulin.
Watching Rinne shut the door for the rest of the game almost made you want the Islanders to save the comeback effort and rest up for the road game tomorrow in D.C. Almost.
To their credit (heh ... relative terms), the Islanders did push well to try and climb back. While they looked deflated and suffered downright laughable scrambles in front of their own goal with the score 2-0 and 3-0, the rest of the game was closer to the efforts we've seen over the past week. Of course, the Predators themselves were in conservation mode with the lead -- they're beginning a road trip and play tomorrow night at the Garden. So that big lead secured, they were willing to bend as long as there was no danger of breaking.
It just wasn't going to happen -- not in most NHL games and certainly not in any game with Renne playing like this. With the Isles already having a thin margin of error, they just can't afford opening the game with mistakes like that.
Tomorrow in D.C., the Islanders pick it up again while seeing an old acquaintance for the first time in a long time.