Fatigue factor hurts Isles in loss to Devils
Orange and Blue Suffer Back-to-Back Blues in 4-1 Setback at Barclays
Less than 24 hours removed from a thrilling overtime win in Montreal, the New York Islanders looked like they were still in snooze mode Tuesday night at Downtown’s Barclays Center.
“It was a tough draw,” Islanders head coach Doug Weight ceded following the 4-1 loss to the previously slumping New Jersey Devils in front of 12,695 fans on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.
“They’ve been off for a couple of days, [we had] a real hard couple of games, some battles and went to OT in Montreal against a real fast team,” Weight added. “Guys get to bed at 3:30 a.m., it’s tough, but teams go through it.”
The Isles (23-19-4) hardly looked like a team in need of a wake-up call when Anders Lee scored on an unassisted breakaway just 1:39 into play.
Normally, an opening goal is an instant recipe for success for New York, which had won 16 of its previous 17 this season when getting the game’s first tally.
But the Isles looked listless thereafter, chasing the action throughout the evening as the Devils, losers of six in a row entering the game, reeled off the next four goals.
“Two nights in a row we got swarmed,” admitted Lee, whose team-leading 26th goal proved to be the only highlight as the Isles saw their three-game winning streak snapped.
“We escaped one last night and tonight it wasn’t in the cards to pull something off like that again.”
Especially not when you are being outshot, 42-26, by a well-rested Devils team that was desperate for a win.
“We really wanted to get back on track and find a way to start winning more games,” Devils defenseman Damon Severson said after scoring twice in a 1 1/2-minute span of the second period to put New Jersey in front for good.
“Two points is what counts at the end of the day,” he added. “This one felt good and hopefully we can get on the right track now.”
In Montreal, the shots-on-goal disparity was even worse as Thomas Greiss needed to stop 52 of 56 attempts before team captain John Tavares’ overtime winner sent the Isles back to Brooklyn on a hot streak.
Jaroslav Halak returned to the net Tuesday and was peppered with 30 shots through the opening 40 minutes, failing to get in front Kyle Palmieri’s equalizing power-play blast in the first period before surrendering a pair of goals to Severson and one to Taylor Hall during a 5 1/2-minute stretch of the second stanza.
It marked the 10th straight game in which Halak saw at least 35 shots as the Isles continued to watch their netminder face, and oftentimes fend off, countless opportunities by the opposing squad.
“We keep making the same mistakes and give up odd-man rushes,” Halak said after making 38 saves. “It seems like we don’t learn. This is not how you win games.”
New York has been outshot by a whopping 493-374 over the last 12 games, according to the Associated Press, and both Halak and Greiss need better protection up front to avoid the nightly onslaught of hard rubber flying in their direction.
“I don’t think it’s an excuse as far as not being in shape or anything, I know we are, but that’s what you have to manage in a back-to-back,” said Isles defenseman Thomas Hickey, who was moved up to forward during the game after front-liner Shane Prince suffered an upper-body injury.
“Last night in a game where we obviously spent a lot of energy playing in our own end. That’s what wears on you and you could see in the third period, the effort was there, but the energy maybe wasn’t.”
The loss dropped New York one point behind Pittsburgh and the rival Rangers in the hunt for the Eastern Conference’s final two playoff spots.
It also created a sense of urgency in the locker room as the Isles hope to get back on track Thursday night at Barclays against Boston in their final home game before the All-Star break.
“We were mentally tired early and didn’t do a great job managing the game,” Weight said.
That excuse won’t be available Thursday night against the Bruins when the Isles try to reclaim at least partial possession of a postseason spot that they fell one point shy of at the conclusion of last season.
“There’s no violins playing for us,” Weight noted.
Isle Have Another: Still missing veteran forward Andrew Ladd (upper-body injury) and defenseman Johnny Boychuk (lower-body), the Isles may get a key reinforcement back in the fold against Boston. Josh Bailey, who leads the team with 38 assists, could be back alongside Tavares and Lee on the Isles’ top line Thursday after missing the previous four games with a lower-body injury … Following their home game against the Bruins, the Isles will hit the road for a three-game trip through Chicago (Saturday), Arizona (Monday) and Las Vegas (Jan. 25) before the annual All-Star break … Tuesday’s loss was the Isles’ first-ever to New Jersey at Barclays Center. New York and snapped an eight-game home winning streak in the series overall dating to their days at the Nassau Coliseum … Lee was a guest on WFAN’s Boomer and Gio Show on Wednesday morning and intimated that he was looking forward to the team potentially returning to the Coliseum for a season or two during the construction of the franchise’s new arena in Elmont, N.Y. “If we can announce it and make it unofficial-official, that would be awesome,” Lee said as the Isles are committed to finishing out this season and next at Barclays. “That’s been the home for this organization forever.”
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