Islanders begin Brooklyn farewell with a dud
The Isles were steamrolled by Montreal in first of final three Barclays games
The New York Islanders aren’t long for Brooklyn.
They might not be in the Eastern Conference playoff race much longer either if their slumping ways continue.
Playing the first of their final three games at Downtown’s Barclays Center Tuesday night, the Isles put together one of their most putrid performances of the campaign, dropping a 6-2 decision to the Montreal Canadiens in front of 12,788 frustrated fans on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush.
“It’s frustrating. It’s unacceptable,” New York defenseman Ryan Pulock said after the Isles fell behind by four goals before mustering anything resembling an effort en route to their fourth straight defeat and eighth in the past 10 games.
“This time of year these points are so important,” added Pulock. “There’s winning and losing, but it’s more frustrating when you don’t bring an effort. We just didn’t have that tonight. We weren’t ourselves.”
It’s difficult to discern exactly who the Islanders are at this point in the campaign — a team fighting for its playoff life or one simply going through the motions?
“I don’t think they had much to cheer for,” Isles captain Anders Lee said of the Barclays crowd, which booed the team loudly in the closing moments of the opening period.
“We didn’t give them anything. I wouldn’t be cheering either.”
Starting netminder Thomas Greiss surrendered three goals on only 12 shots in the opening period before getting yanked for Semyon Varlamov, and the Isles (35-22-8, 78 points) didn’t appear to be up to the fight against a Montreal team that is trying to make a late postseason push.
“We need to raise our battle level a little bit,” Isles Head Coach Barry Trotz said after his team remained deadlocked with Columbus for the final two playoff spots in the East, with Carolina sitting just three points back.
“That first period was really important and we failed,” Trotz added. “We dug ourselves a tremendous hole. We have to put more skin in the game, we don’t have enough skin in the game and you can’t win at this time of year unless you’re putting more skin in the game to earn points.”
Brock Nelson scored his team-leading 24th goal and Pulock added a power-play tally in the third period for New York, which lost veteran blue-liner Johnny Boychuk to a frightening injury when he was cut on the face by the skate blade of Montreal’s Artturi Lehkonen in the third period.
“There’s a lot of things that aren’t going well,” Lee said. “We’re gripping it tight because we want it to happen. Little mistakes are turning into big mistakes. It’s just snowballing a little bit on us right now.”
If it snowballs any further, the Isles won’t be able to build on the momentum of last year’s charge to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Just days after learning that they would no longer be playing in Brooklyn following this month, the Isles saw their scoreless streak extended to a gruesome 154:03 before Nelson ended the drought.
“We got exactly what we deserved today,” Trotz lamented as his team prepared to visit Ottawa on Thursday night.
Isle Have Another: The Islanders have two Barclays Center games remaining on March 17 against Calgary and March 22 against Carolina. After that, New York will play its regular-season games at the Nassau Coliseum for the remainder of this season and all of next year before moving into its new arena in Elmont, N.Y., which is scheduled to open in time for the 2021-22 season.
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