Everything is tilted against the New York Islanders right now, including an injury to their top-line left wing , and a tough call early in the third period that paved the way for their futile penalty kill to give up the game-winning goal.
But if the Islanders aren't catching many breaks, they sure aren't creating any either. That combined with a tepid effort results in a 5-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Isles' fifth consecutive regulation loss within the Metropolitan Division and their third of this four-game road trip.
That in itself is why this losing binge hurts so much: They're giving up ground to every struggling division rival they failed to pull behind them when given an October head start. In some respects they're actually playing marginally better -- at least structurally -- than some of those October games, but without even the regulation tie nor shootout bonus points to show for it.
And of course, there is zero room for "played alright" moral victories when you're constantly handing out favors to your division rivals. The finish in close has not been there, the defense continues to concede too much room, and the goalies aren't about to stand on their head to cover those warts.
With four goals against (plus an empty netter), you might be tempted to pin this one on Evgeni Nabokov, because that's the in thing (and often the right thing) to do these days. But it's really not the case tonight. Most of the goals were explainable on his part -- two deflections, a breakaway -- leaving the more alarming thing to be the penalty kill and other defense played in front of him.
That said, as always you'd like your goalie to be able to "steal" you a game, and Nabokov is certainly not doing that.
The Islanders actually started out acceptably -- particularly given that Thomas Vanek left 23 seconds into his first shift. They outshot Columbus 9-2 in the first period and tied it at 1-1 late on Frans Nielsen's wrist shot through traffic, which Nabby'd by Sergei Bobrovsky. As a special bonus Eric Boulton picked up an assist, putting the seldom-used enforcer in the amusing position of having two assists in his first 15 minutes of ice time this season.
Brandon Dubinsky had opened scoring on Columbus' first power play goal, which deflected in close, caromed off the post, and went in off Nabokov's outstretched blocker.
Next deficit was a breakaway by Ryan Johansen after Thomas Hickey's shot was blocked at the point. Hickey somewhat made amends for that by "firing" a slapper from the point after John Tavares made an excellent one-on-three effort to carry the puck in deep, then feed Hickey. Hickey's shot deflected up off Johansen's stick, so honestly the Isles had good bounces on both of their goals.
R.J. Umberger's power play goal -- another tricky deflection right in front of Nabokov -- early in the third period gave Columbus their third one-goal lead of the night, and this time they didn't give it back. Once the margin grew to two goals, the Islanders offered little by way of pushback.
Most Alarming Moment: It was really unclear how Vanek suffered his upper body injury [mostly unhelpful GIF of the sequence here], other than in a collision and maybe awkward landing in front of the Columbus goal. Arthur Staple of Newsday said he's definitely out tomorrow in Montreal.
Matt Carkner too had an injury in the third period, though he stayed in the game. Did an awkward split and banged his knee on the end boards, so keep an eye on whether he's ready to play tomorrow. He was a late insertion for Radek Martinek, who -- brace yourself -- picked up a knock of some sort.
Oddest Moment: A fourth line of Matt Martin, Eric Boulton and Casey Cizikas creating not two consecutive scoring chances off the rush, including even a nice angle tip on goal. No conversion, of course.
Funniest Moment: Blake Comeau going after Pierre-Marc Bouchard, then both of them taking turns trying to nail each other (eventually falling over each other, then giving up and heading to the bench).
Saddest Moment: Earning a reprieve after falling behind by one goal twice, the Isles entered the third period tied 2-2. A weak slashing call on Travis Hamonic brought out the suddenly reeling penalty kill, which naturally conceded yet another go-ahead goal 12 seconds later.
Weakest Moment: With the whole team looking lifeless after falling behind two goals, Jack Capuano went to the well even more with the fourth line. Woo.
Most GIFable Moment: Eric Boulton thought he was just going to be a forward retrieving the puck in the offensive corner -- he even looked over his opposite shoulder to make a productive play on the puck. Then Dalton Prout did what Boulton would probably do in that situation (via the Columbus broadcast on Fox Sports something-or-other):
Up Next: Redemption in Montreal?
Staple also reported the Islanders had a brief closed meeting before letting the media in tonight, a move that -- well, so many of their fellow Metro opponents have had to do this season. Now it's their turn. Staple's recap in Newsday had several self-damning quotes, including from the captain.
Kevin Poulin is expected to start in Montreal, and maybe he'll make more saves than Nabokov would -- certainly if their respective recent games are any indication. But the result should turn on what's done in front of him. Tonight, as with every night on this road trip, it wasn't enough.
More from Lighthouse Hockey:
- Thomas Vanek Injury: Winger leaves ice in Columbus after first shift, 'upper body' injury
- New York Islanders vs. Columbus Blue Jackets: Full Coverage
- Source: Video of Rob Ford Dressed as Maple Leafs Mascot Carlton the Bear Surfaces
- New York Islanders vs. Columbus Blue Jackets Preview: Mutually assured dread
- NHL Power Rankings, Nov. 6: All Agree the Isles are..."Meh"