With a 6-3-1 record on the road, the Islanders have looked like a playoff bound team away from the Coliseum. Home has been the exact opposite story, leading to the league’s worst home record. For the second time in a month, the Islanders surrendered a lead at home to the ‘Canes. Two weeks weeks ago, they allowed four in the third en route to a 6-4 loss and today it was four in the final two periods for a 4-2 loss.
Today’s game started out promising. Both teams were coming off a game last night and the Hurricanes showed the full effects, looking like they were skating in mud for much of the first period. The Islanders were able to take advantage, scoring twice in the frame. Matt Moulson scored off a nice feed from Brad Boyes. Moulson’s shot tipped off Cam Ward’s glove and had enough steam to make it over the line. It was an awkward, delayed reaction goal celebration but put the Islanders up 1-0.
For the Islanders’ second goal John Tavares did an amazing thing, which is getting to be what John Tavares does every night. On a 2-on-1, Tavares opted not to pass, flinched, and fired a wicked wrister past Ward. The goaltender never had a chance, and Tavares gave himself a brief lead in the NHL goal scoring race with his 13th in 15 games. It wouldn’t last long, as less than an hour later in Pittsburgh, PA, Tampa’s Steven Stamkos would score his 13th to tie Tavares.
In net, the Islanders’ started young Kevin Poulin, who was welcomed with open arms by the home crowd. A small chant of “Pou-lin” started early in the game and grew throughout the first period, as Poulin made 14 stops in the frame. There were some tenser moments later on, as a huge scramble ended without a Hurricane goal but with Lubomir Visnovsky in the back of the net. The Islanders still made it out of the frame with a 2-0 lead, despite the 14-5 shot differential.
The game would take a turn for the worse late in the second, despite the teams skating fairly evenly for most of the frame. Matt Martin got called for a weak interference call in the offensive zone, which led to a really fluky goal. Alex Semin fired a shot from the high slot off the immediate faceoff, the puck deflected into the air and was knocked past Poulin by Eric Staal’s two-handed baseball swing.
After a tough penalty and fluky goal, things unraveled for the Islanders.
Less than a minute later, Jordan Staal was allowed to have a clear shot on Poulin from the slot. It tipped off the netminder’s shoulder and into the net, a shot he shouldn’t have let in and would surely like to have back.
In the third, the Islanders looked lifeless and managed only six shots. Maybe that can be excused away as it was their sixth period of hockey in 48 hours, but it still reeks of all the lifeless periods we’ve seen from them at intermittent intervals in February. The worst sequence of the game came when the team pulled Poulin for an extra attacker at the end of the period.
The highlight of the empty net goal on NHL.com doesn’t really do justice in showing just how poorly that whole sequence went. The Islanders ran around their zone for a good 20-30 seconds before finally allowing the insurance goal. Whether it was that the players out there were gassed or it was something else, it was tough to watch.
The Islanders are now home for another two weeks as tonight’s game was the first of a seven game homestand. A 2-7 home record isn’t going to cut it and to make matters worse, the Boston Bruins are up next on the list of visiting teams. It’s inexplicable how we’ve seen two different teams, one version at home and one on the road, but the Islanders need to figure out why there’s such a stark contrast and adjust immediately.