The New York Islanders’ six-game win streak was snapped in an inconsistent effort Tuesday at Nassau Coliseum, allowing a team right behind them in the Metropolitan Division to walk out with a 4-3 regulation win.
The Carolina Hurricanes extended their own win streak to five but weren’t exactly on top of their game either, which makes this lost opportunity hurt all the more.
First Period: Target that 5-Hole
It was a cagey, lower event start to the game from both teams, with no penalties and just a quick exchange of goals in the second half of the period. After a “red flag” first two periods in St. Louis, this was not a very convincing start, nor a good omen.
Still, Brock Nelson opened scoring at 13:42, coming off the bench to walk in unmarked at the left wing faceoff circle. It was a point-blank look at Curtis McElhinney, but an on-the-ice shot that he likely should have stopped.
The Islanders lead lasted less than 90 seconds though, and they reached the intermission trailing 2-1 after a pair of fluke-aided goals.
On the first, a 50/50 puck popped up in the air to the right of Thomas Greiss’ crease, and an alert Saku Maenalanen caught it, dropped it, then shot against the grain to beat Greiss in tight. On the second, with just six seconds remaining in the period, a “why not” volley toward the net by Greg McKegg deflected perfectly off Adam Pelech’s skate and upstairs past Greiss.
Greiss was starting while one of the NHL’s “Stars of the Week” Robin Lehner took a rest, but Greiss showed no rust and couldn’t really be faulted for either goal.
And the Islanders, they are not last year’s Islanders. So conceding a go-ahead goal in the dying seconds of a period was no big deal.
Second Period: After Further Review...
The Islanders had a couple of power play opportunities in the second period, but failed to convert and didn’t look too threatening despite holding considerable possession.
Between those, the Islanders thought they’d tied it at even strength, on a doozie of an interchange between Valtteri Filppula, Michael Dal Colle, Brock Nelson and Jordan Eberle. But the Hurricanes successfully challenged to have the play overturned for the narrowest of offsides.
Filppula — who was on the bench by the time the non-goal was scored — had lifted his back foot as he and the puck crossed the line. He exchanged passes with Dal Colle, who found Nelson, who took the puck behind the net to feed Eberle for a tight one-timer at the top of the crease. Eberle’s shot went five-hole, a target-rich spot on the Canes’ journeyman goalie.
Earlier, Casey Cizikas looked to be a casualty on a shot from the point that felled him. But ‘twas only a midsection/manhood wound. Though he spent considerable time doubled over on the bench, Cizikas caught his breath and recovered without missing a shift.
A comb stretching effort by Mathew Barzal and Ryan Pulock kept the Hurricanes from extending the lead with a chance at the doorstep and Thomas Greiss on the other side of the crease. Then Pulock had a chance to tie late in the period, on a very nice entry and pass from Nelson. But while Pulock aimed for the inviting five-hole, he caught the knee of McElhinney instead.
Third Period: And the Streak Ends
The second period and the confidence the Isles have played with lately evoked a feeling that a tying goal would be coming. It arrived at 4:50 via Devon Toews’ second NHL goal, a point shot that took a mid-slot deflection to rise above McElhinney.
McGinn got away with a high hit on Barzal while the Islanders star was handling the puck and facing the boards.
The Islanders had a third power play opportunity late in the third — a really soft call on Justin Williams when he raised his stick on Leo Komarov, who fell — but again they failed to do anything convincing with it.
The Nassau Coliseum fans, who were pretty raucous as the Isles looked to take the lead earlier in the period, started catcalling the poor power play performance.
Worse, with Williams coming out of the box, the Islanders failed to handle a clearance while the second unit changed, leaving Williams all alone to receive a pass and deke Greiss with a backhand upstairs.
That came with 2:42 left in regulation. Then Komarov all but ended any chance by taking a brutal and unnecessary crosschecking penalty, driving McGinn into the boards with 2:05 left. I’m not saying McGinn didn’t warrant some kind of sanction after his high hit on Barzal, but if that was on Komarov’s mind he chose a stupid time to do it.
Meanwhile, Williams had jawed away at Komarov for what he thought was a dive on that penalty a few minutes before, so the entire sequence of this ending had to feel sweet for the Canes captain.
Barzal was on the ice for that penalty kill to try to create an equalizer opportunity, but he blew a tire in the neutral zone and left the Hurricanes with a 5-on-3 look. Jaccob Slavin converted from the high slot to give the Hurricanes a crucial insurance goal and 4-2 lead.
But Nelson made it interesting eight seconds later, again taking advantage of McElhinney’s five hole to make it 4-3 with 59 seconds left. The Isles pulled Greiss, had one rush, then Leddy put the puck out to bring Greiss back in. Barry Trotz called a timeout, the Islanders got the puck in deep to pull Greiss again, and had a few flurries in the final 30 seconds.
Alas, this is how streaks end. The Islanders were just meh, not consistent throughout the night, and no longer had any luck on their side.
“I thought we just mismanaged the game. ... Guys on the wrong side of pucks. It was on us. We didn’t have enough of our lines going. The Nelson line was really good, the rest not as good.”
“There are certain events, certain moments in a game where you have to execute what is in the best interest of the group, at the time, knowing the score, knowing the situation, and we didn’t do that today. That’s a good way to lose hockey games. We expect to do that and make the playoffs? Who knows. It’s gonna be a tight race, and that one or two points we could have had, we threw away.”
This is a crazy busy stretch in the schedule leading into the break. Thursday they are at the Garden to start a home-and-home with the Rangers.