The second half of the season has barely begun for the New York Islanders. But they might already be nearing the make-or-break portion of their schedule.
The Islanders look to snap a season-high four-game losing streak Saturday night, when they play the visiting Montreal Canadiens in Elmont, N.Y.
Both teams were off Friday after playing at home Thursday. The Islanders allowed three unanswered goals in the third period in a 3-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild, while the Canadiens edged the Nashville Predators 4-3.
The loss was doubly disappointing for the Islanders, who were on the power play and appeared to have the momentum following a seemingly spectacular save by goalie Ilya Sorokin with 9:05 left. But the save was overturned upon review when it was clear Sorokin caught the shot by Frederick Gaudreau while his glove and puck were over the goal line.
Sam Steel scored off a turnover by Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield 93 seconds later for the Wild, who iced the victory when Kirill Kaprizov added an empty-netter with 1:12 left.
The defeat cost the Islanders a chance to leapfrog the idle Pittsburgh Penguins and move into the second and final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Penguins are set to play at home against the Winnipeg Jets Friday night, after which they’ll still have two games in hand on New York.
The Islanders have scored just one goal in each of their last three games and have been outscored 13-5 during their four-game skid (0-3-1). They are 1-for-10 on the power play, with more short-handed goals allowed (two) than goals scored with the man-advantage.
After hosting the Canadiens, who are in last place in the Atlantic Division, the Islanders are set to close out the first half with eight consecutive games against teams that entered Friday either occupying a playoff spot or within six points of a wild card berth.
“We aren’t happy with the results,” Islanders head coach Lane Lambert said. “Our power play generated chances. We made a couple mistakes and right now, the way things are going, those mistakes are costing us.”
The skidding Canadiens will take the ice Saturday looking to build their first winning streak since they won two straight Nov. 23-25. Montreal, which won at least two straight games four times while getting off to a surprising 11-9-1 start, has lost 15 of its last 21 (6-13-2).
The Canadiens were outscored 36-12 in a seven-game losing streak (0-6-1) that ended with a 5-4 win over the St. Louis Blues on Jan. 7. Montreal was then blanked by the Seattle Kraken 4-0 on Monday.
The Canadiens relied on their special teams to overcome a pair of one-goal deficits Thursday. Montreal was 4-for-4 on the penalty kill while Cole Caufield scored the go-ahead and game-winning goals on the power play over a 16-minute span bridging the second and third periods.
“Obviously we don’t want to have bounce-back games, but I loved our energy off the start,” Caufield said. “We stuck with it through some penalties and I think our special teams was the difference tonight.”
–Field Level Media