The New York Islanders started off strong but faded as the game went on in a 3-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens before a sellout crowd at the Nassau Coliseum Tuesday. Kyle Okposo scored the only goal for the Isles while Andrei Markov, Brendan Gallagher and David Desharnais tallied for Montreal. Carey Price made 37 saves to earn the win for the Canadiens.
Chad Johnson started in goal for the Islanders and was backed up by Kevin Poulin who the team called up from Bridgeport on an emergency basis a few hours before the game. Starter Jaroslav Halak was given a “maintenance day” heading into the three-day holiday break.
The Islanders came out strong in the first period. They skated well and spent most of the first 15 minutes of the game in the offensive zone. In fact, the Canadiens failed to register their first shot on goal until the game was nearly 14 minutes old.
New York finally broke through on a goal by Okposo off an odd-man rush. Josh Bailey took a hit to create the 2-on-1, then John Tavares made an accurate cross-ice pass to Okposo who beat Price with a pretty one-timer to make it 1-0 Isles at 12:04.
The Islanders outshot the Canadiens 14-3 in the first period but were unable to add to their one-goal lead.
“We had a pretty good first period but then we got away from our game and it didn’t seem like we had a lot of jump tonight,” Okposo admitted. “We controlled the play still but we just weren’t able to get our legs going in the offensive zone like we usually do.”
The Canadiens came out skating in the second stanza and started to gradually take control of the tempo of the game. They got the equalizer on a blast from the point point by Markov set up by a nice pass by P.K. Subban at 6:10. Isles goalie Chad Johnson was screened on the play by Brandon Prust who was battling for position in front of the crease.
Montreal took the lead for good at 11:27 of the second stanza on a deflection by Gallagher. Sergei Gonchar let go a hard shot from the point that Gallagher was able to redirect past Johnson. Montreal maintained a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes.
In the third period, the Islanders outshot the Canadiens 15-9, but Montreal’s defense was able to keep the Isles on the perimeter and limit their quality scoring chances. Price took care of the rest.
Desharnais added an insurance goal for Montreal with just 1:11 left on the clock to provide the final margin of victory.
“We had some guys who were way off on their game,” Isles coach Jack Capuano said. “Guys weren’t moving. We didn’t play bad, we had our chances. We’ve got to get our guys playing a little bit better an a little bit more physical.”
The Isles resume play on Saturday when they travel to Buffalo to face the Sabres.
The Islanders scratched Eric Boulton, Brian Strait and Matt Donovan.
The team had a moment of silence before the game to honor the memory of slain NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. John Tavares also wore an NYPD baseball cap during post game interviews.
The start tonight was the first for Johnson since December 9.