It wasn't quite the St. Patrick's Day Massacre, but then it wasn't anywhere as entertaining as that infamous Chicago night either.
The New York Islanders visited Chicago and found themselves torched by the Blackhawks' top line -- each time victimizing the Islanders' own top trio -- with a side of help from an aggressive Corey Crawford and a flailing special team unit. (No, the other special team unit.)
The 4-1 final was deserved. Continuing without Patrick Kane, the Hawks loaded up their top line and laid waste in their matchups with the Isles, who cost themselves their only chance to gain points between Saturdays.
It was the Islanders' first road regulation loss since Feb. 7, but it was also their fourth loss in a row overall, the first time that's happened this season. That can be looked at in two ways, but right now it hurts and comes at a bad time.
[ Box | Game Sum | Event Sum | Fancy/Shifts: War-on-Ice - Natural Stat Trick - HockeyStats.ca || Recaps: | Isles | NHL |
Five minutes into the second period, the Islanders had a great opportunity to erase Jonathan Toews' two first-period goals when Andrew Shaw was tagged with a major and an ejection for head butting Brock Nelson. Nelson had given Shaw a couple of crosscheck shots in the battle, and it looked like Shaw rose up with a head ram into Nelson's face. The officials huddled to issue a ruling:
Instead of taking advantage, minus Nick Leddy and Lubomir Visnovsky and already struggling of late, the Isles power play generated nothing. I mean, nothing.
Three minutes after it expired, Marian Hossa scored, and he did so again in the first minute of the third period to put the game away.
Nikolay Kulemin ended Crawford's shutout with a rebound goal in the third period, but Crawford played the percentages and kept the Isles from ever propping the door back open to make it a game.
Michal Neuvirth continued an unnervingly Chad Johnson-like start to his Islanders tenure, conceding four goals on his first 22 shots faced, with Toews' first coming on a bank shot from a bad angle and his second coming late in the first on another short-side shot, this on the backhand. That one undid two superb saves Neuvirth had just made to keep it a 1-0 game.
If Neuvirth should want the Toews goals back, Hossa's goals were simple excellence from the Hawks: They moved the puck up from the defense and passed perfectly among their forwards.
But while the Isles have injuries that are testing the depth that has carried their insurance this season, the story was how much the John Tavares line -- and he's truly carried them many nights this season -- was victimized. They were on for all four goals against, with the makeshift top pairing of Johnny Boychuk and Calvin de Haan out for three of them.
It's the kind of display you'd normally toss away and move on to the next one. Except this is the Islanders' only game in a six-day span, it's their fourth loss in a row, and it comes as other teams are finally making up the games-in-hand advantage.
Nothing to do now but fume, get back to the board, and prepare for what suddenly looks like must-have points Saturday in New Jersey.