‘Awful’ Isles hold on for point vs. Habs
Squander two-goal lead but retain first place in Metropolitan
Barry Trotz expects more from his first-place team.
“We were awful,” the New York Islanders’ head coach stated matter-of-factly following Monday night’s 4-3 shootout loss to the visiting Montreal Canadiens in front of 9,402 fans at Downtown’s Barclays Center.
“The right team won tonight,” Trotz added. “That was our worst game of the year… We felt like we gave up a point.”
They certainly did.
Despite leading by two goals following the opening period, which saw Casey Cizikas light the lamp twice, the Isles (8-4-2, 18 points) meandered their way through the final 40 minutes of regulation en route to their first defeat since a 3-2 overtime defeat to Florida here on Oct. 24.
A power-play goal by Montreal’s Max Domi in the second period and Artturi Lehkonen’s equalizer in the third sent the game into overtime, which saw the Isles squander a man-advantage opportunity before the game went to a shootout.
“We had an opportunity for two points and we obviously let it slip,” Isles captain Anders Lee lamented after watching Joel Armia beat New York netminder Thomas Greiss in the sixth round of the NHL’s game-deciding skills competition.
“At some point we have to give them credit,” Lee added of the 7-3-1 Canadiens. “But the way we’ve been playing, this wasn’t an example of that at all.”
Having won their previous five games to thrust themselves into the front of the pack in the Metropolitan Division, the Isles had a chance to close out a perfect three-game homestand before the wheels fell off after the first period.
“They came hard, they were all over us, they were hounding us and we didn’t have an answer,” Cizikas said. “We have to dig deep and find that when we have those types of games.”
New York has managed to secure at least one point in each of its last seven games (5-0-2), but the sting of giving away a two-goal lead at home and not capitalizing when the Canadiens were down a skater was evident in the post-game locker room.
“It’s definitely tough,” ceded Cizikas, who upped his season goal total to five in the losing effort.
“But we’re going to watch video and see what we have to do to be better,” he added. “We just have to bounce back, forget about this and get back to the way we were playing.”
Valtteri Filppula scored the Isles’ other goal and Greiss finished with 32 saves in the first 65 minutes and five more during the shootout for New York, which will try to regroup and resume its winning ways during a two-game road trip through Florida, beginning with Thursday night’s visit to Tampa Bay.
Trotz, fresh off capturing a Stanley Cup at the helm of the Washington Capitals last season, has already heightened the expectations for these Isles, who have missed the postseason in each of the previous two seasons.
His insistence on better defensive discipline and structure, coupled with solid play from the goaltending tandem of Greiss and Robin Lehner, has the Isles believing they can remain atop the division and return to the playoffs.
“We’re going to try and learn from it,” Trotz said. “We’re a better team than we showed tonight.”
Isle Have Another: Josh Bailey, the Isles’ leading scorer thus far this season with 15 points (three goals, 12 assists) had a personal eight-game points streak snapped in Monday’s defeat. … Cizikas enjoyed his first multi-goal game since Oct. 7, 2017. But he was disappointed that the rare offensive outburst came in a loss. “He’s one of the guys that brought energy tonight,” Trotz said of Cizikas, who won eight of 10 faceoffs during the game. “He was good on draws, he had some juice, he had a couple goals. I thought his line was fine.” … After visiting the Lightning on Thursday night, the Isles will take on the Florida Panthers Saturday evening before returning to Brooklyn to kick off a three-game homestand against Vancouver next Tuesday. … According to the Associated Press, Isles team president and general manager Lou Lamoriello became just the third GM in NHL history to oversee 2,400 career games Monday, joining Glen Sather and David Poile, who was Trotz’s former boss during his 15-year run in Nashville. … Despite Monday’s loss, the Isles remained three points in front of Pittsburgh for the top spot in the division.
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