The Islanders took a step backward in their quest to be a new, more dangerous yet responsible team under Patrick Roy, with a sleepy 5-2 loss to the Flames in Elmont on Saturday afternoon.
It was not a blowout, but the Islanders never looked like they’d be mounting a threat as the Flames steadily built a 3-0 lead by the second intermission. It’s a sharp contrast to the two wins earlier this week, and a jarring shift from their 6-2 dismissal of the Lightning on Thursday.
Brock Nelson’s goal with 4:00 left in regulation made the ending interesting, and the Isles added one more — after the Flames got their first empty net goal to restore a three-goal lead — when Jacob Markstrom tried and failed miserably to go for a goalie goal.
(The Flames goalie had ample time, and a three-goal lead is definitely the time to go for it, but each of his attempts failed to lift and were easily stopped in the slot.)
With the Islanders’ 6-on-5 unit exhausted and the game beyond reach, MacKenzie Weegar potted Calgary’s second empty net goal for a hat trick.
In the end, a disappointing result as it’s not even one of those
nights afternoons where you could say “yes but they’re making progress” under the new coach. This one was a step back. They only have two games over the next week, too, so the pressure in the standings may likely build during that time.
First Period: Sleepy start
The Flames got on the board first and early, with a simple entry and shot by MacKenzie Weegar that Semyon Varlamov should’ve stopped. The Isles goalie, whose kid was in net during the first intermission kid scrimmage, just didn’t have the angle right and he was beaten far side.
The Islanders thought they’d tied it on a weird, fluky, broken play where Jacob Markstrom had cleared the net expecting to collect a dump-in. Kyle Palmieri sent it in from the line, and it either deflected off a Flame or entered a vortex uncaptured by video before ending up in the net.
However, with the broken exit and delayed re-entry, Pierre Engvall was already in the zone and offside. The weird nature of the play had the linesmen looking at each other in confusion, but the Flames eased their burden by issuing a coach’s challenge where the goal was easily wiped off the board.
That would’ve been a lucky one to maybe energize the Isles, who were not dominated but by no means had a strong opening period.
Second Period: Sleeping deeper
The second period was no better. The Isles just looked a step slow, and the Flames were getting repeat stretches of smooth entries and zone time. But it was on the dreaded penalty kill, whose current slump coincides with the coaching change, where the deficit grew.
With Adam Pelech in the box for the game’s first penalty, a rebound from the right wing side eluded Scott Mayfield and landed right on the stick of Jonathan Huberdeau, who had an easy finish to make it 2-0.
That was at 8:38; then things got really concerning at 15:16. It was a lucky bounce for the Flames: Walker Duehr whiffed on a one-time attempt at the bottom of the right-wing circle, but the puck caromed across the slot and right to Weegar, who notched his second of the game and 14th of the season.
The Isles best chance to get on the board was a nice rush and patient backhand from in tight by Bo Horvat, but Markstrom stayed with him and got a shoulder on it.
They pushed a bit more as time wound down in the second, but couldn’t get on the board. An oddly called exchange after a great, clean Casey Cizikas check ended with him and Matt Martin in the box, offsetting penalties with Andrew Mangiapane and Mikael Backlund, who took exception to Cizikas’ textbook check to stop Backlund as he drove to Varlamov’s doorstep.
Third Period: Formality
Nothing different in the third until the end. The Isles came to life a bit at the halfway mark, but that was when the game was basically done and dusted.
Things got interesting as noted when Nelson scored through traffic, but even after that the Isles didn’t look really determined or hopeful. Sometimes the coach pulls the goalie early and the team looks like they’re going to go down fighting. Other times, they almost look annoyed that they’re playing without the goalie because they clearly don’t have it.
The Isles looked most motivated when Markstrom would try to go for the goalie goal, including one sequence where they blocked his shot, caught him out of position — he still made one great paddle save — and moved the puck around until J-G Pageau finally beat Chris Tanev high glove side to make it 4-2.
Jacob Markstrom tries shooting the puck into the empty net. But he turns it over and it leads to an Islanders goal.— Robert Munnich (@RingOfFireCGY) February 10, 2024
️: Sportsnet | NHL pic.twitter.com/Mj9frqDdC6
“Twice in one game, and neither one made it past the hash marks. I should work on some wrist curls” - Jacob Markstrom on his two late attempts to score— Eric Francis (@EricFrancis) February 10, 2024
Sebastian Aho was in the lineup as Alex Romanov missed this one with whatever injury kept him out of practice on Friday. Aho was fine (18:45), and this performance certainly wasn’t on him.
The Isles are home again on Tuesday, when Jordan Eberle and the Kraken visit. That’s the last game before the pomp, hype and circus of the outdoor game with the Smurfs next Sunday.