Frans Nielsen and John Tavares both scored, but the New York Islanders were unable to hang on to a 2-1 lead, losing 3-2 to the Nashville Predators Saturday at Bridgestone Arena. Evgeni Nabokov made his fourth start in goal for the Islanders, stopping 28-of-31 shots, as the Islanders were outshot 31-16.
Head coach Jack Capuano refused to accept fatigue as an underlying factor for the Islanders, who were tasked with playing their second game in as many nights.
“We didn’t get off to the start that we wanted,” Capuano said. “We regrouped after the first, and I thought we picked our game up. We eliminated our turnovers, we started to play high-percentage, we started to do a lot of good things and got ourselves back in the game. But they got a big goal with under a minute left in the second period.”
Following a scoreless first frame, Seth Jones’ first NHL goal put the home team ahead by a goal early in the middle period. The fourth overall pick in the 2013 Draft ripped a slap shot by Nabokov at the 1:03 mark on a power play.
Capuano tweaked the forward combinations during the middle frame, and the decision paid dividends quickly. Midway through the period, Kyle Okposo chased down a puck along the right wing boards and made a cross-ice pass to Frans Nielsen. The centerman wristed home the tying goal from the left circle at 12:39.
Less than three minutes later, Okposo set up John Tavares for his third tally of the season. Tavares attempted a pass back to Okposo in the slot, but the play was broken up and the puck bounced right back to Tavares. With his momentum carrying him behind the goal, the captain banked the puck off the inside of Pekka Rinne’s right leg and over the goal line.
In the final minute of the period, Patric Hornqvist evened the score. After taking the Islanders blue line, Hornqvist wristed a shot five-hole through Nabokov, who was skating out to close off the angle.
Three minutes into the final period, Ryan Ellis re-established the Nashville lead on a top shelf slap shot in transition from the blue line.
Nashville’s Matt Hendricks was assessed a double minor for hi-sticking in the third, but the Islanders were unable to capitalize on the four-minute power play, despite generating multiple opportunities late in the advantage.
“It was one of those games, especially as an offensive player, where we really didn’t feel like we had a whole lot of room,” Tavares said. “Pucks were bouncing, and we couldn’t seem to get it done when we needed to.”
Nabokov skated to the bench for the extra attacker with a minute remaining in the period, but New York couldn’t find the equalizer. Tavares took a shot late that went wide, and Josh Bailey was unable to get good leverage on the second chance, as his shot was blocked in front.
The Islanders will look to turn it around at home Tuesday, when the Buffalo Sabres visit Long Island for the first time this season. Tuesday’s game starts at 7:00 p.m.
Saturday marked Jack Capuano’s 200th game as Islanders head coach, good for second place in franchise history … Kyle Okposo has three multiple-assist efforts in his last nine regular season games … Michael Grabner posted a team-high three shots on goal … Travis Hamonic led the Islanders with 25:06 of ice time and blocked four shots … Andrew MacDonald had a game-high five blocks … Matt Martin led all players with four hits.
New York Islanders
60 Kevin Poulin
27 Patric Hornqvist - 12 Mike Fisher - 33 Colin Wilson
57 Gabriel Bourque - 7 Matt Cullen - 15 Craig Smith
25 Viktor Stalberg - 11 David Legwand - 9 Filip Forsberg
24 Eric Nystrom - 28 Paul Gaustad - 26 Matt Hendricks
3 Seth Jones - 6 Shea Weber
64 Victor Bartley - 8 Kevin Klein
42 Mattias Ekholm - 4 Ryan Ellis
35 Pekka Rinne
30 Carter Hutton