NEW YORK — Monday was another “must win” game for the Islanders at Barclays Center, and similar to Saturday’s “must win” the Islanders fell short with their playoff hopes taking another hit.
The Nashville Predators held the Islanders to 25 shots, keeping them to 15 through the first two periods, and came away with the 3-1 win in front of 11,671 fans in Brooklyn. It was the fifth consecutive game that the Islanders dropped at home and the second straight game where they failed to pick up points they desperately needed.
“We just didn’t have a great start and it took a while for us to get our game going,” John Tavares said. “I didn’t have a good one tonight, it starts with me, and obviously today was a big game. It’s just disappointing.”
The loss, coupled with a win by the Tampa Bay Lightning against Chicago, dropped the Islanders down to 10th in the Eastern Conference. They remain two points out of the final wild card spot, but the Islanders do not play again until Thursday and the Boston Bruins, who the Islanders are chasing, are in action on Tuesday.
The Islanders also have the Carolina Hurricanes one point behind them in the standings.
It was another sluggish effort in a game the Islanders were aware that they needed to win. The Predators opened the first period with plenty of jump and kept the play at the Islanders end of the ice.
While they did generate chances in the game, the Islanders failed to capitalize on an overturned goal that kept the game scoreless in the first and then surrendered a goal to Kevin Fiala several minutes later. Fiala buried a wrister from the top of the slot at 10:17 to give the Predators the 1-0 advantage.
The Predators added to that lead early in the second period from Arvidsson at 3:15. Arvidsson tipped in a shot from Filip Forsberg from in front of the net. The goal was reviewed because it looked as though Arvidsson kicked the puck in, but it was determined that puck went in off of his stick.
The Islanders lone goal of the game came at 17:20 of the second period. Josh Bailey deflected a shot from Nick Leddy through the legs of Predators’ netminder Juuse Saros. It was Bailey’s 13th goal of the year for New York.
Ryan Johansen scored on an empty net in the final minute of the game to seal the win for Nashville.
“I was looking for more early. For the first period I wasn’t excited really about our emotional level,” interim head coach Doug Weight said about the Islanders’ effort. “The very least you should be chomping at the bit to get through people and we just kind of danced around. Tommy (Greiss) was really good and we fortunately caught an offsides, and it could have been a lot worse. After the second I was tickled pink that it was 2-1 and I thought all right we’re gonna come and have a good third, and find a way to win.
“But we didn’t have enough (desperation) for sure.”
The Islanders finished the night with 25 shots on net, which was up from their previous game where they managed just 19 shots through 60 minutes against the Bruins on Saturday. The power play continued to struggle, going 0-for-2 and is now 0-for-8 over their last two games.
Weight did try to jumpstart the power play on Monday by putting Josh Ho-Sang on the top unit during the man-advantage. And Weight isn’t ruling out the possibility of calling up Ryan Pulock to try to jumpstart the power play and team.
“We’ll consider everything that’s available,” Weight said.
With just seven games remaining in the regular season, and only two left at home, the Islanders window to keep themselves in the playoff picture is slowing getting smaller and smaller. The race has continued to remain tight as well during the last few weeks.
While that comes with plenty of pressure, the Islanders aren’t trying to look at that as a negative.
“That’s just part of the opportunity,” Tavares said. “I don’t think you can look at it in a negative way. We’ve worked hard to give ourselves this opportunity. I don’t think anyone expected us to be back in the playoff picture after the start we had. For us it’s got to be motivating. It’s just a real frustrating one tonight.”
However, it will take a much better effort from the Islanders on Thursday if they want to keep their chances at a postseason berth alive, a fact that Weight is well aware of.
“We have to find a way to dig deeper,” Weight said. “We have to try to put games together and I think we’re just too late to the party on a consistent basis. It’s been a problem that didn’t end up biting us in New York, but it bit us the last couple games. We have to find a way to get up out of the gate.”