Islanders’ Winning Streak Snapped at Six
Two late goals lift Carolina over New York, 4-3, at Coliseum
The New York Islanders have made huge strides defensively under first-year head coach Barry Trotz, going from allowing the most goals and shots in the NHL last season to becoming one of the stingiest back lines in the league this year.
But a brief collapse in their own end Tuesday night at the renovated Nassau Coliseum kept the Brooklyn-based franchise from extending its season-high winning streak to seven games.
“I thought we just mismanaged the game,” Trotz lamented after two late goals by Carolina resulted in a hard-to-swallow 4-3 loss for New York in front of 13,769 fans in Uniondale, N.Y.
“There are certain moments where you have to execute what is in the best interest of the group,” added Trotz. “We didn’t do that. That’s a good way to lose hockey games.”
The Isles had won six in a row and nine of 10 overall since the middle of December, climbing into the thick of the Metropolitan Division race and grabbing the last of the two wild-card spots available in the Eastern Conference.
Offseason pickup Robin Lehner had backstopped each of New York’s last six wins, dropping his league-leading goals-against average to 2.18 per contest.
But Trotz opted to give Thomas Greiss the start in net against the Hurricanes, whom he had beaten six straight times entering Tuesday’s tilt at NYCB Live.
Greiss stopped 20 shots against Carolina, but Justin Williams came roaring out of the penalty box and snapped a 2-2 tie with 2:42 remaining in regulation to put the Hurricanes in front to stay.
The Isles took a penalty themselves soon after, and Jacob Slavin took full advantage, sliding another one past Greiss with 1:07 to play, which offset Brock Nelson’s tally, his second of the contest, in the final minute.
“Frustrating,” Isles captain Anders Lee said after New York dropped a single point behind Montreal in the hunt for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
“We had some opportunities, we had some power plays. We just made a couple of mistakes at bad times in the game, allowed them to get those go-ahead goals, tying goals, whatever it was. We kind of point to ourselves tonight.”
Nelson also added an assist to his two-goal night, joining Lee in setting up rookie defenseman Devon Toews for his second career tally, which knotted the contest at 2-2 less than five minutes into the third period.
But New York, which ranks fourth in the league in goals against at 2.63 per contest just past the season’s midway point, suffered an uncharacteristic defensive collapse thereafter.
“We should have played better and smarter,” Lee said after skating off the ice following a losing result for the first time since a 4-2 loss at Vegas on Dec. 20.
“We have to reset and get ready to go in a couple of days.”
The Isles will try to shake off the deflating defeat when they open a home-and-home with the archrival Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night.
“It’s tough,” Nelson admitted. “We were obviously on a roll. We wanted to come back at home and keep it going. This was a good team who was playing well, too, and it was a big game in the standings, and we weren’t able to do enough good things.”
The Rangers and Isles will play the back end of their two-game set Saturday at Downtown’s Barclays Center, marking the Isles’ first appearance in Brooklyn since a 6-3 win over Ottawa on Dec. 28.
Regardless of where they happen to be skating, however, Trotz wants his team to recognize the importance of piling up points as they continue their quest to reach the postseason for the first time since the inaugural 2015-16 campaign in our fair borough.
“We expect to make the playoffs,” Trotz insisted after his team dropped just out of the current playoff picture. “Who knows? It’s going to be a tight race. That one or two points that we could have had today, we threw them away.”
Isle Have Another: Tuesday’s defeat was the Isles’ first in regulation at the renovated Coliseum, dropping them to 3-1-1 in their former and part-time current home. … After managing two points (one goal and one assist) in 10 games with the big club, enigmatic forward Josh Ho-Sang was sent down to AHL Bridgeport before Tuesday’s game after New York activated previously injured veteran Valtteri Filppula. … Lehner, who has won his last seven starts overall, should be back between the pipes Thursday night at The Garden. He hasn’t suffered a loss in net since a 3-2 setback to Vegas on Dec. 12 and was named the league’s Third Star of the Week after going 3-0 with a 1.95 GAA in his last three starts.