A week ago, the New York Islanders were elated when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced that all postseason games would be played at Nassau Coliseum and not in Brooklyn.
That is assuming there are any playoff games, which is hardly a sure thing given the Islanders’ place in a crowded Eastern Conference postseason race. The Carolina Hurricanes get a chance to tighten up the race even further Saturday afternoon when the teams get together on Long Island.
The Islanders used a team-record 17-game points streak (15-0-2) from Oct. 12-Nov. 23 to get off to a fast start but are a pedestrian 19-20-6 since. New York also is on a season-high five-game losing streak (0-3-2) and 2-7-2 in its last 11 games since a 5-3 win over Philadelphia on Feb. 11 when it was five points out of first place in the Metropolitan Division.
Now the Islanders are nine points out of first but also have to be concerned with the bunching of teams in the wild-card race. The Islanders trail Columbus by one point for the first wild-card spot but also lead the New York Rangers by two points, Carolina by three, Florida by four with Montreal lurking in the distance at seven points out.
That means besides trying to get a win Saturday, the Islanders will also find themselves depending on the New Jersey Devils to beat the Rangers, Montreal to win in Florida and Edmonton to beat Columbus.
New York returns home before starting a four-game road trip after taking a 4-3 loss in Ottawa on Thursday. That followed last Saturday’s 4-0 loss on Long Island to Boston and a 6-2 loss in Brooklyn to Montreal.
Mathew Barzal had a goal and two assists vs. Ottawa, but the Islanders coughed up a 2-1 lead by allowing three straight goals.
“You just need wins at this time (of year),” Barzal said. “It doesn’t matter if there’s stuff to build off of or not. Unfortunately, we didn’t tonight. It’s just the way it goes sometimes. It’s a game of bounces. We’re just not getting them right now.”
Carolina also is on a four-game losing streak (0-3-1) since a 6-3 win at Toronto two weeks ago when emergency goaltender David Ayres got the win. Alex Nedeljkovic and Anton Forsberg have split the goaltending duties since, and the Hurricanes are on their second four-game skid this season.
The skid continued Thursday when Carolina took a 4-1 loss at red-hot Philadelphia in the second leg of a six-game road trip. Justin Williams scored Carolina’s only goal Thursday in the third period, but the Hurricanes gave up two goals in a span of 26 seconds afterward.
“We’ve got to be better,” Carolina’s Jordan Staal said. “To a man, including myself, there’s got to be more. We need everyone. We need the whole team ready to go and engaged right from the start. It’s being physical, getting pucks out. It’s all the little things that compound into a good game. We haven’t showed that yet or in a long time. It’s not good enough.”
Also not helping matters of late for Carolina is falling behind early. Thursday marked the sixth straight game and 12th time in the past 15 games that the Hurricanes allowed the first goal.
Including last spring’s postseason, the Hurricanes have won the past seven meetings. Nine players registered a point in their 5-2 home win on Oct. 11 and Williams scored the game-winner in the eighth round of a shootout in a 2-1 win on Jan. 19.
–Field Level Media