By Arthur Staple/Newsday
It’s three straight games now away from Barclays Centre that the Islanders haven’t started well. On Saturday, at least they finished well, though that got them the same zero points they got in their previous two losses.
Nick Leddy’s shot towards a yawning net clanked off the post with 1:27 to go, cementing the 3-2 Islanders loss to the Devils. The Isles had to wait for the West Coast games to see how much damage this latest road loss did to their playoff standing, but with nine straight on the road coming after Sunday’s visit by the Devils to Brooklyn the Isles have to look more at themselves than the standings right now.
“We’re in a playoff race. There’s no mental crap right now,” Doug Weight said after his team fell to 7-13-4 away from home. “If you have that (mental block) you’re not strong enough to be in it anyway.”
Nevertheless, the Islanders fell behind 3-0 for the third straight road game. In Ottawa a week ago, they couldn’t break the Senators’ steel trap and lost by that score. In Toronto on Tuesday, 3-0 became 7-1 in a lost effort in the third period.
On Saturday, the Devils scored in each period on Thomas Greiss, with Pavel Zacha’s deflected power-play goal at 6:21 putting the Isles in a three-goal hole. There was barely a peep from the home side after that as the Islanders finally got bodies to Cory Schneider’s grill.
“We did a better job of getting in front of him there,” said Andrew Ladd, who scooped up a loose puck with a tangle of bodies in front and snapped one past Schneider at 8:58 to start the Isles’ attempted rally. “In the first two periods we had shots (29 of them) but we didn’t get the traffic we needed.”
With some pep after Ladd’s 15th, the Isles surged. Anthony Beauvillier followed up his own shot on a one-on-three rush to cut it to 3-2 at 13:48, the rookie’s first goal in 19 games, and the Isles got a power play at 16:57.
Weight chose not to call his time out and put his second power-play unit out, a group that did not get a shot on Schneider. But after a change and the Isles gained the zone, Schneider denied Anders Lee in close and the puck squirted out to Nick Leddy charging off the left point.
With Schneider nowhere in sight, Leddy snapped one off the post and the puck went harmlessly out of play.
“I thought we deserved better,” said Weight, whose team outshot the Devils 42-21 for the night.
“We were the better team tonight. Say what you want ... We need to start better, start (Sunday) the way we finished this one.”
Even with the Devils throwing so little on Greiss, there were mistakes. Greiss used his stick to deny Taylor Hall on an early breakaway, but Devante Smith-Pelly didn’t miss on his breakaway try at 7:10 of the first after Calvin de Haan mistimed a play for the puck in the neutral zone.
A minute later John Tavares received a penalty shot after Travis Zajac hooked Tavares on a breakaway. Schneider got his right pad on Tavares’ wrister to keep the Isles off the board.
In the second on a power play, Ryan Strome and Tavares were hounded into turnovers and Zajac buried a short-handed two-on-one.
“Obviously we were a little sluggish,” de Haan said. “We gave them too many opportunities, starting with me giving them a breakaway goal ... Maybe we just need to be a little more positional in our own end, take away their time and space.”
These three road losses do not spell the end of the Isles’ playoff push. But without points on the road and 17 of the final 25 away from Barclays Center, there’s no push without road victories.
“There’s nothing to say about this one,” Weight said, “except we have to win on the road if we’re going anywhere.”
Jets 3 Canadiens 2
Red Wings 3 Capitals 2
Sabres 3 Blues 2
Wild 5 Predators 2
Sharks 4 Coyotes 1
Panthers 4 Kings 3
Senators 6 Maple Leafs 3
Canucks 2 Flames 1 (OT)
Devils 3 Islanders 2
Oilers 3 Blackhawks 1
Stars 4 Lightning 3 (OT)
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