The New York Islanders were relieved to learn late Tuesday night that the worst news of the evening was their lopsided loss to the Montreal Canadiens.
On Thursday, the Islanders will look to raise their spirits as well as better their standing in the Eastern Conference playoff race when they visit the Ottawa Senators.
Both teams were off Wednesday following four-goal defeats Tuesday night, when the host Islanders fell to the Canadiens, 6-2, in Brooklyn, N.Y., and the visiting Senators absorbed a 7-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Islanders’ fourth straight loss (0-2-2) became of secondary concern around the midway point of the third period, when defenseman Johnny Boychuk was accidentally hit in the face by the skate of Montreal left winger Artturi Lehkonen while the two battled for position in the crease.
Boychuk immediately buried his face in his gloves and raced off the ice. While Boychuk’s eye was not hit, he needed 90 stitches to close the wound to his eyelid. After the game, teammates received a group text from Boychuk letting them know he was fine.
“He had quite a night,” Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello said Wednesday. “He’ll be fine. It’s just a matter of time with his eye opening up and him feeling good.”
It was the second scary skate incident of the season for the Islanders. Right winger Cal Clutterbuck needed surgery to repair tendons in his left wrist after he was accidentally cut by the skate of the Boston Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron on Dec. 19. Clutterbuck missed more than two months before returning against the Bruins last Saturday.
“Not easy to see,” Clutterbuck told reporters Tuesday night. “Not good at all.”
The Islanders’ loss — their eighth in 10 games — also further endangered a playoff spot that once seemed assured after a team-record 17-game point streak (15-0-2) from Oct. 12 through Nov. 23. New York began Wednesday tied for the two Eastern Conference wild-card spots with the Columbus Blue Jackets, who were scheduled to visit the Calgary Flames on Wednesday night.
“No words, really,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said of Tuesday night’s loss. “I didn’t expect that. We had a pretty pointed meeting and a pretty pointed practice (Monday) that we need to raise our battle level a little bit.
“We got exactly what we deserved today.”
The Senators, who have the third-fewest points in the NHL, had their two-game winning streak snapped Tuesday, when they surrendered their most goals since a 7-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Nov. 29. The Penguins raced out to 2-0 and 5-1 leads before Ottawa closed within 5-3 with fewer than nine minutes to play, but Bryan Rust capped his hat trick for Pittsburgh with a pair of late goals.
“I didn’t think we played a smart game,” Senators coach D.J. Smith said afterward. “I think we tried to come back. We made it 5-3. We had good effort in the third period, just we were careless with the puck. We hung (goalie Craig) Anderson out to dry.”
–Field Level Media