Isles end season-opening stand with a dud
Neal scores four goals as Edmonton rolls to 5-2 win at NYCB Live
“Soft” is a bad adjective for a professional hockey club, but it fit the New York Islanders’ performance in Tuesday night’s 5-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers, according to Head Coach Barry Trotz.
“I think we were looking for an easy game, and I’m disappointed with that because we knew it wasn’t going to be,” Trotz lamented after New York fell to 1-2 on its season-opening three-game homestand in front of 10,985 fans at NYCB Live, better known as the renovated Nassau Coliseum.
“Too many turnovers, too soft on the battle and [we] took too many penalties,” Trotz added.
After splitting their first two contests, including Sunday’s 4-1 victory over Winnipeg in Uniondale, N.Y., the Islanders (1-2-0) broke out to a 1-0 lead over the visiting Oilers when Anthony Beauvillier lit the lamp on a shorthanded tally with 5:46 remaining in the opening period.
But, it all went downhill from there for New York, which watched helplessly as Edmonton’s James Neal scored the next three goals, including two on the power play, on his way to a career-high four-goal night.
Isles goaltender Semyon Varlamov, signed this summer to replace departed Vezina Trophy finalist Robin Lehner, was pulled after yielding four goals on only 19 shots.
He was replaced by Thomas Greiss, who surrendered Neal’s fourth goal and sixth in three games this season to give Edmonton (3-0-0) a commanding 5-1 lead.
“We took too many penalties,” Trotz said. “It’s not a winning combination when the only two things that you did for the most part tonight was win face-offs and turn pucks over.”
Matt Martin capped the scoring with his first of the year, with just under 6 1/2 minutes remaining, but by then it was too late for the Isles to mount a serious comeback as they prepared for their first road contest of the season in Carolina on Friday night.
“We certainly didn’t quit, so that’s a positive,” said Martin. “But we’ve got [to] get out of the gates better. We haven’t really come out of the gates in the first period and played well at all yet. In our building, that’s usually our forte. We’ve got to do a better job of that.”
The Isles, who led the league in goals allowed last year, had surrendered just three tallies over the season’s first two games, but were uncharacteristically porous on the defense end Tuesday against the Oilers, something they must correct Friday against the team that swept them out of last year’s playoffs.
“We’ve got to reflect a little bit on this one,” Islanders captain Anders Lee said.
“It wasn’t a very good effort. Top to bottom, we were just kind of all over the place,” he added. “We gave them too much room, didn’t close on them and we were sloppy. A team like that with that much skill, we can’t give them that kind of space. Our overall effort was just disappointing.”
In other local pro sports news, the Brooklyn Nets are still scheduled to play their two exhibition games in China against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers despite mounting tensions between the NBA and the Chinese government.
The first game will be in Shanghai on Thursday and the second is slated for Saturday in Shenzhen.
However, for the second straight day the Chinese government cancelled an NBA Cares event Wednesday, this one to be hosted by the Lakers after the Nets’ initial event was called off on Tuesday.
The cancellations came in response to a tweet by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey last Friday in support of the ongoing Hong Kong protests calling for more political freedom in China.
The Rockets and the NBA have already lost several notable Chinese sponsors over the ongoing controversy and tensions have not exactly eased during this week, which was designed to help the league grow its global brand in the world’s largest international market for basketball.
According to the Associated Press, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver did not expect the games to be cancelled, but was heading to Shanghai to help repair the situation.
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