The New York Islanders addressed their long-standing offensive woes by trading for Bo Horvat on Jan. 30.
But now the team’s foundation — its defense — is beginning to show cracks at the most inopportune time.
The Islanders will look to snap a two-game losing streak and remain in the thick of the Eastern Conference wild-card race Tuesday night, when they host the Ottawa Senators.
The Islanders and Senators were on the opposite ends of 4-3 overtime finals in their most recent games. New York last played Saturday, when it squandered two third-period leads and fell to the host Montreal Canadiens. Ottawa will be completing a back-to-back set after overcoming a two-goal deficit in the last three minutes to beat the visiting Calgary Flames on Monday.
The Islanders are 2-1-1 and have scored 14 goals since acquiring Horvat from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for left winger Anthony Beauvillier, center Aatu Raty and a conditional 2023 first-round draft pick. New York scored just 15 goals in the eight games prior to the trade, during which it went 2-4-2.
However, the Islanders missed out on three potential extra points by squandering leads in their past two games. New York was up 4-2 in the second period against the Canucks on Thursday before falling 6-5. The Islanders squandered a pair of one-goal leads on Saturday, when the Canadiens’ Kirby Dach scored with 3:16 left to force overtime before Mike Matheson collected the game-winner with 22 seconds remaining in the extra session.
The Islanders, who ranked no lower than 10th in terms of fewest goals allowed in each of the previous four seasons, have surrendered 155 goals this year, the 13th fewest in the league.
“There’s a certain point in time where as an individual you have to win a battle,” New York coach Lane Lambert said on Saturday. “And when that doesn’t happen, you decrease your chances of holding that lead.”
Failing to secure those points could haunt the Islanders, who have 60 points and are tied for ninth place in the Eastern Conference with the Florida Panthers, one point behind the Pittsburgh Penguins in the race for the second wild card and two points back of the Washington Capitals.
“It’s extremely deflating,” Lambert said.
The Senators, who rank 14th in the Eastern Conference with 53 points, are likely to miss the playoffs for the sixth straight season. However, the Monday victory continued a lengthy stretch of encouraging play for Ottawa, which has won five of six (5-1-0) and is 17-11-2 since the start of December.
The Senators seemed headed for a second straight loss on Monday when the Flames maintained a 3-1 lead into the final stages. But with goalie Mads Sogaard pulled for an extra attacker, Drake Batherson scored with 2:14 left and Alex DeBrincat tied the score just 46 seconds later.
“There’s four, five minutes left and you see a few people leaving and before you know it, it’s tied up,” Batherson said.
Tim Stutzle then scored 1:55 into overtime for the Senators, who are 6-3 in games decided beyond regulation this season.
“We haven’t scored many six-on-five goals since I’ve been here, and the place went nuts,” said Batherson, who has spent all five of his NHL seasons with the Senators. “So it was great to get the win.”
–Field Level Media