The New York Islanders held a team to fewer than 35 shots for once and took a lead early in the second period but failed to convert on any of their four power play opportunities in a 5-3 Presidents Day afternoon loss to the Minnesota Wild.
Two of the three Islanders goalscorers have spent most of their seasons in the AHL: Ross Johnston with his third(!) goal in 10 games while Tanner Fritz, playing in his 14th, finally notched his first NHL goal.
Playing against the team from his home state, Anders Lee reached the 30-goal mark for the second consecutive season.
Those were the happy points.
Ok this is insane. The Isles won the first period in shot attempts 30-17, but LOST in high danger chances 10-2. WHAT.— Carey (@habermetrics) February 19, 2018
The Turning Points
The Wild got on the board first, scoring seven minutes into the game and ending any thoughts that the Islanders would suddenly get their first three shutouts of the season in a five-day span. Johnston equalized late in the first with a deflection of a Johnny Boychuk shot.
The pivotal period was the second, where the Isles both gained and then lost (in a big way) their lead. Lee’s 30th gave them a 2-1 lead just two minutes in, but the Wild scored three consecutive goals in a five-minute span in the middle of the period.
After falling behind 4-2, Fritz’s late in the second brought the Isles within one entering the third. It was a sweet one for a first NHL goal, a sizzling wrister that bent Devan Dubnyk over.
The afternoon was marked by poor officiating, though as noted the Islanders power play did nothing to capitalize when it did get an opportunity. The most glaring oversight was a should-be penalty that got Mathew Barzal in trouble as a wee rookie last year, but was deemed to be no problem today:
Pulock sends puck back up as Granlund exits box, but Granlund plays puck with a skate still in the box. That's a penalty. Except now all four officials huddle and say it's not.— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) February 19, 2018
At 4-3 the Isles had chances to tie it and give this one a different ending, but every attempt went wanting.
Bailey shot deflects down into the crease, Tavares can't corral it with the empty net yawning in front of him.— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) February 19, 2018
There was also total defensive breakdown on the backbreaker, Jason Zucker’s insurance goal with over three minutes left.
Leddy turnover, three #Isles behind the net without the puck, which means someone's open. It's Zucker. 5-3 with 3:22 left.— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) February 19, 2018
The Isles received one more late power play, and pulled the goalie, but you already know how that went.
Hockey is a cruel game, and its gods taketh away just easily as they giveth two nights of shutouts on 95 shots. It wasn’t a great afternoon for Jaroslav Halak, who let up one or arguably two he should have had. The 32 shots he faced represented the first under-35 night since the Feb. 8 loss to Buffalo, and just the second time they’ve cleared that modest mark in the last 13 games.
So, it wasn’t an awful game from the home team (amazing how often that feels like the standard these days), but neither was it reassuring.
1) #Isles shot themselves in foot several times.— NDRedEagle (@NDRedEagle) February 19, 2018
2) Refs shot them in other foot several times.
3) Fritz looks better with decent players around him, right?
4) Continue to remember Isles played Seidenberg + Chimera over Aho/Pulock/Fritz/Ho-Sang many, many games this season.
The loss drops the Isles back out of the wild card spot by points percentage, which is about right. Barring some trade deadline miracles that seem beyond the realm of possibility, this team has shown that if it makes the playoffs, it will do so while liming along to a perch for first-round slaughter.
It’s kind of weird to think that five Metro teams should make the playoffs yet so many of them are so flawed. The Metro’s mass of not-awful teams are simply less almost-awful than the Atlantic’s non-Tampa/Boston/Toronto crop of bottom-feeders.
Speaking of which, the Islanders’ next game is Thursday in Toronto. Be afraid.