Nosediving Isles keep finding ways to lose
Fall in OT at Vancouver for season-high 7th straight defeat
Mired in their longest losing streak in almost five years, the New York Islanders are running out of excuses for why they appear destined to miss out on the playoffs for a second straight season.
“We just seem to find ways to lose,” team captain John Tavares admitted following Monday night’s 4-3 overtime loss at Vancouver in front of 17,307 fans at Rogers Arena.
“We just have to find a way for a full 60 minutes to finish one out,” added Tavares after New York’s season-high seventh consecutive defeat. “We haven’t seemed to finish games off. Whatever that is, whether it’s mental or just execution of a few plays. We just have to find a way to do it.”
Tavares’ team high-tying 31st goal of the season gave the Isles a 2-0 advantage in the second period, but the Canucks answered with the next three tallies, including Darren Archibald’s tying goal on a penalty shot late in the second period.
Jordan Eberle helped New York eke out a point when he knotted the game at 3-3 on a power play goal with just more than a minute remaining in regulation.
But Brendan Leipsic settled matters 2:47 into the extra session, beating Jaroslav Halak with the game-winner to leave the Isles with their longest losing skid since 2013 while dropping them four points behind Columbus for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
“It’s obviously frustrating,” said Eberle. “At the end of the day, good teams win hockey games. It doesn’t matter if they play well or crappy. Sometimes they find a way to win, especially down the stretch here where we need points. We let that one slip away.”
The Isles have been steadily slipping out of serious postseason contention since December, going a gruesome 14-22-7 since the final month of 2017 began.
They have already allowed one more goal (239) than they did all of last season with 15 games yet to play. New York also hasn’t managed more than three scores of its own in a contest in the last 11 games, going 2-6-3 during that stretch, after being among the highest-scoring squads in the league prior to the drought.
Making matters more difficult, New York (29-29-9, 67 points) now has to jump over Florida (70 points, four games in hand) and Carolina (69 points, one game in hand) just to have a shot at reeling in the Blue Jackets (71 points, one game in hand).
Super rookie Mathew Barzal continued to be a bright spot during this freefall, picking up a pair of assists, including his 50th of the year, to remain 14 points ahead of Vancouver first-year star Brock Boeser (55 points) in the hunt for the Calder Trophy.
After the Isles’ strong start, Leispic got the Canucks on the board at 14:25 of the second stanza, shaving New York’s lead in half, before Archibald beat Halak on the penalty shot to even the contest at 2-2.
The two tallies came in a span of just over a minute and a half as the Isles saw another game that they seemed to have under control elude their grasp, leaving them without a two-point effort since a 3-0 victory at Carolina on Feb. 16.
“These little breakdowns are costing us games,” Anders Lee noted. “It seems every time a team does this right now against us the momentum completely shifts and we get stuck in mud for whatever reason. It’s extremely frustrating.”
That mud will only grow thicker around the Isles’ skates if they can’t climb out of the mire this week.
New York, 0-2-2 on its current four-game road swing, will visit Edmonton on Thursday night before heading to Calgary for a Sunday evening contest.
As the losses mount, the pressure increases on head coach Doug Weight, who led a spirited charge that came up a point shy of a playoff berth last season after replacing Jack Capuano.
“It’s getting old,” Weight said of New York’s ongoing malaise. “We should have won the game.”
According to Tavares, who will hit unrestricted free agency this summer, the Isles can’t go looking for any help to pull them out of their current funk, which threatens not only to leave them out of the postseason but may weigh heavily on his decision to re-sign with the only NHL squad he has ever played for.
“No one is going to change the outcome but us,” he insisted. “Obviously this isn’t a whole lot of fun right now.”
Isle Have Another: Barzal, a Vancouver native, got a strong show of support from the crowd at Rogers Arena after hitting the ice for the pregame skate without his teammates, who waited for the 20-year-old from Coquitlam, B.C. to get his due before they followed him out. He needs 12 more assists this season to tie Hall of Famer Bryan Trottier (63 in 1975-76) for the franchise’s all-time rookie record … Halak only made 19 saves Monday night, but has still faced 76 more shots (1,185 total) since the Isles began their elongated slump on Dec. 1 … Following their western swing, the Isles will kick off a home-and-home set with Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals here at Barclays Center on March 15.
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