PENGUINS 4 (EN), ISLANDERS 2 — Three Losses in a Row at Home

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Kevin Schultz

Despite a better effort than in previous games, the Islanders came away with the same result tonight on the Coliseum ice. The red-hot Penguins weren’t red-hot for stretches of tonight’s game. In fact they were pretty bad during the first period, but they hung around like a good team does, got some help from their goaltender and pounced when the Islanders seemed to ease off the throttle in the latter half of the second and early third.

The Penguins would score first in the third period to take a 3-2 lead and shut down the Islanders the rest of the way. The Islanders ended up with two powerplays in the final ten minutes but were barely able to enter the zone on the first advantage and, after a timeout, were able to get some pressure on in the second advantage. It wouldn’t be enough and, in all honesty, the Islanders didn’t have any significant chances in the third. The lone exception to that being a Lubomir Visnovsky slapper that went off the post early on and left the Coliseum crowd asking for a review (it didn’t go in).

At the end of the frame, the Islanders had that second power play and failed to convert. After pulling Evgeni Nabokov with 90 seconds to go the extra attacker didn’t generate much extra offense but it also wasn’t the gong show that we’ve seen before (bonus point to Andrew MacDonald for laying out to stop a scoring chance with under a half minute to go). At the final buzzer, Pascal Dupuis snuck the puck in before the buzzer and made it 4-2.

So in a slight change of pace the Islanders played an excellent first period where they outshot their opponent 14-3, but could only convert one chance. The rest of the game was a back-and-forth struggle as the Penguins woke up and controlled the play for stretches but neither team folded like a cheap suit, as we had seen the Islanders do on Thursday night.

But in the end it’s the third loss in a row, the third home loss in a row, and the third post-game standings check in a row that is surprising in that the Islanders are still, somehow, only three points out of the final playoff spot in the East.

Here’s some amazing parity for you; the Isles are three points out of eighth in the East and only five points out of 30th in the entire NHL, a spot currently held by their next opponent, the Florida Panthers. So, is it time for a playoff push or a fail for [draft pick] campaign? There’s literally about a dozen teams around the league pondering that question. The way the Islanders are playing, the latter sounds about right but it’s hard to ignore that three points is only three points. But the way this team has played when they’ve had a chance to win three in a row (0-6 this year), or win important home games, it doesn’t seem like they get going when things get tough. Three points is three points, but it sure as heck doesn’t feel that close.

Sunday the Panthers come to town, the last chance to salvage anything at all from this homestand. After that, the Isles will play 11 of their final 16 on the road.

(Also, in Providence tonight Nino Niederreiter suffered an upper body injury and will be re-evaluated tomorrow.)