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Senators 4, Islanders 3: (The playoffs are) slip slidin’ away

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You know the nearer your destination, the more you’re slip slidin’ away.

New York Islanders v Ottawa Senators
This one sealed the disappointment.
Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images

Two points were a must tonight for the New York Islanders. Instead, they got zero.

They came into Ottawa to play the Senators in J-G Pageau’s return to the city and riding a four-game losing streak. The Senators entered the night second to last in the Eastern Conference. It was kind of a necessary game to win.

But instead, the Islanders couldn’t score (again) despite throwing 40 shots at Craig Anderson, and the Senators capitalized on some of New York’s mistakes to score goals in a so-so night for Semyon Varlamov. The result is the Islanders’ fifth straight loss as they head into a difficult stretch of games.

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First Period

The Islanders got off to an important quick start and drew a power play in the first couple minutes, courtesy of Bobby Ryan. It was perhaps their best power play of the season, and it took nearly the full two minutes, but Anders Lee gave the Islanders the early lead. In his office, he finished a sweet pass from behind the net by Mathew Barzal.

The Islanders spent almost the entire power play in the Senators’ zone, which isn’t terribly impressive but still important to do in the quest for points.

J-G Pageau took the opening face-off and was serenaded by the Ottawa crowd from puck drop. He got his tribute video during the first commercial break and took a little skate in his salute back to the crowd.

In the return from the break, the Islanders killed off a Devon Toews and, shortly thereafter, a Noah Dobson trip.

But the Senators used the opportunity to start generating offensive zone time and had the Islanders on their heels a bit until they scored. The goal went in off Scott Mayfield near the crease and was credited to Connor Brown.

Really, after their power play goal, the Islanders let the Senators take it to them and it was not a very encouraging period. But the period ended tied at 1-1.

Second Period

Process-wise, this period was a bit better for the Islanders than the first. And they scored early to re-take a one goal lead. But it was short-lived and they found themselves trailing when the second ended.

Barzal, Toews, and Jordan Eberle led a 3-on-2 into the Ottawa zone and Barzal wristed home Eberle’s drop pass. The puck appeared to hit the shaft of Thomas Chabot’s stick. Fortunate bounce!

Midway through the period, the Islanders went on another power play, but it was not nearly as well set up as the first one. Ryan Pulock dove to keep a puck in the zone but it was cleared ahead by Mikkel Boedker. Pulock was a little slow and lazy getting back and Boedker jumped in front of Pulock to pick up the puck. He hit Chris Tierney at the blue line and skated into the slot for Tierney’s give-and-go feed, backhanding it past Varlamov to tie the game. Third shorthanded goal against in the last two games (although one was into an empty net).

Josh Bailey turned it over to Jayce Hawryluk four minutes later. Hawryluk sprung Anthony Duclair through the neutral zone and he sped into the offensive zone. He deked around Jean-Gabriel Pageau and flipped the puck past Varlamov on the short side. It was a pretty weak goal, to be honest, but it gave the Senators the lead going into the third.

Third Period

The third period was largely controlled by the Islanders and the top line, in particular, put on a clinic but just couldn’t put one past Craig Anderson.

For a few moments in the second half of the period, though, the Senators did threaten. One particular sequence saw Ottawa spend a solid chunk of time in the New York zone, forcing a tired Andy Greene to take a tripping penalty.

The Islanders managed not to concede a goal on the penalty kill, though they let the Senators run roughshod over them.

A broken Isles play in the Senators’ zone sent Brady Tkachuk and Chris Tierney away on a 2-on-1 against Nick Leddy. Leddy cut off Tierney as a passing option, so Tkachuk rifled one high on the short side past Varlamov to make it 4-2 with just over three minutes remaining. Backbreaker.

The Islanders pulled Varlamov thirty seconds later, once they gained control in the Ottawa zone. They shakily controlled play for the next thirty seconds and a Pulock slapper squirted through Anderson to make it 4-3 and give the Isles some life with two minutes left in regulation.

They spent nearly the next minute trying to get it into the Senators’ zone to be able to pull Varlamov again. Once they did, they weren’t really able to do much. The top line continued to threaten throughout the period, but it wasn’t enough to tie the game and the Islanders lost this in regulation.

Thoughts

  • Things are not good right now, folks. Not good at all.
  • So, that’s five in a row, three a row in regulation. And haven’t looked spectacular and lost close ones.
  • The top line continued to buzz; Barzal, in particular, had one of his best games in a while. But the top line, even while playing great, seem a little cursed sometimes. And the rest of the lines haven’t been contributing much of anything. Not sure how you fix it.
  • I think maybe it’s time to recall Oliver Wahlstrom and/or Kieffer Bellows? At least they shoot and have offensive upside. Can’t be worse than the anemic offense they’re rolling with right now.

Barry Trotz has finally declared that they’re fighting for their playoff lives.

Up Next

The Islanders are head back home for their second straight 1:00 p.m. Saturday Coliseum matinee, this time against the Hurricanes, with whom they’re competing directly for a playoff spot. Ought to be an important one.

After that, they head out on their final big road trip to western Canada, with a stop in Pittsburgh on the home stretch. They’re hanging onto the final wild card spot by a thread. Ugh.