The Islanders came out flat Thursday night against the Ottawa Senators, fell behind quickly and never really recovered in a 6-4 loss that featured sloppy play, poor team defense and questionable goaltending.
“We took two periods off,” admitted Isles Coach Jack Capuano. “Obviously, the effort was there in the third period but it was just too late. We didn’t come out tonight with the urgency we needed.”
It didn’t take long for the Senators, a struggling club desperate for a win, to take advantage. Sens’ captain Daniel Alfredsson scored on Isles starter Kevin Poulin just 32 seconds into the game. Mike Fisher intercepted a clearing attempt by Travis Hamonic and found Alfredsson who split the defense and beat Poulin to give Ottawa a much needed confidence boost and a 1-0 lead.
“We started off so quickly and never looked back,” Alfredsson said. “It’s nice to be in a winning locker room.”
The Islanders briefly tied the game at the 7:23 mark when Trevor Gillies crashed the net and deflected a centering pass from Zenon Konopka past Ottawa goalie Robin Lehner. It was Gillies’ first NHL goal.
“Obviously it was nice to get the goal,” Gillies said after the game, “but I would have much rather had the two points.”
The Senators took the lead for good less than two minutes later on Jesse Winchester’s fourth goal of the year which beat Poulin on the short side. After that goal, Capuano replaced Poulin with fellow rookie Nathan Lawson.
“Pulling Poulin was a gut feeling,” Capuano said. “Coaches go with their gut.”
Unfortunately, the goaltending change didn’t spark the Islanders and Lawson didn’t play any better than Poulin did. He faced only two shots for the rest of the first period but then allowed four goals on 17 shots in the second period. Milan Michalek’s shorthanded tally got things started with Chris Kelly, Nick Foligno and Zach Smith scoring three times in a span of 3:36 to add to the Senators tally.
The Isles got a second period goal from Blake Comeau to keep things close for the moment but third period scores by P.A. Parenteau and Milan Jurcina only made the final score closer than the game.
The Islanders have made a habit of getting off to slow starts lately and it clearly bothered Jurcina.
“We have to come ready to play,” he said. “When you give up two goals in the first period, it’s hard to come back.”
“It seems like a trend for us in the first period,” Blake Comeau added. “The guys were embarrassed, basically.”
The Islanders will try to get off to a faster start Saturday night when they host the Buffalo Sabres at the Nassau Coliseum.
Lehner was making his first NHL start while Poulin was making his third. The combined ages of the two starting goalies (39) is less than the age of recently traded Isles goalie Dwayne Roloson (41).
Dylan Reese and Rick DiPietro were the Isles scratches while Frans Nielsen remained out of the lineup with a groin injury. Goalie Pascal Leclaire and ex-Islander Chris Campoli were the Ottawa scratches.
Forward Jeremy Colliton was a minus-four for the game while the Isles top defensive pair of Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald was on the ice for three of the Ottawa goals. Ottawa defenseman Sergei Gonchar was credited with just one assist but finished the game with a plus-five rating.
John Tavares won 15-of-21 faceoffs he took in the game (71 percent).