The New York Islanders had their four-game winning streak snapped Saturday night, falling 6-4 to the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre.
Kyle Okposo, Nikolay Kulemin, Anders Lee and John Tavares scored, but the Islanders – who played the night before against Pittsburgh – gave up early goals in every period and never led. The Islanders kept it close heading into the third period, but three unanswered goals proved to be the fatal blow.
“We have to be ready off the puck drop and not give them those goals,” Johnny Boychuk said. “Eventually that was a decisive factor in the game as well as the penalty kill.”
Special teams were a prime factor in Saturday’s loss, as the Islanders gave up two power-play goals on their first three penalty kills. P.K. Subban opened the scoring on the man advantage, taking a feed from Andrei Markov and blasting a one-timer past former-Canadien Jaroslav Halak at 1:56.
“You can’t give up two power-play goals like that,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “I was disappointed in a few guys with their compete level tonight. If you want to thrive and be a good team in this league, you have to battle every night. We had some guys out there just trying to survive their shifts.
The Canadiens struck again 10 seconds into the second period. Max Pacioretty deflected a pass high into the Islanders zone up to Tomas Plekanec, who sent a backdoor pass to Dale Weise before he redirected the puck past Halak.
Okposo put the Islanders on the board 10:52 into the middle frame, scoring his fifth goal in two games. Josh Bailey – who had three assists Friday – intended to pass to John Tavares, but the puck caromed off Tavares’ skate right to Okposo in the slot, who beat Dustin Tokarski glove side.
Tomas Plekanec scored the first of his two goals (four total points) shortly after, six seconds into a Canadiens power play. Plekanec put a seeing-eye shot through traffic with Brendan Gallagher setting the screen in front of Halak.
Kulemin pulled the Islanders back within one, taking a drop pass at the hash marks from Brock Nelson – who attracted the attention of two Canadiens defensemen – skating in and sending a shot off the far post and past Tokarski.
“It’s his determination and desperation in his game,” Capuano said of Kulemin. “That’s what some of the other guys need.”
Kulemin’s made it a 3-2 game after two periods, but the Canadiens scored in the opening minute of the final frame, one of three straight goals that chased Halak at 13:43. Alex Galchenyuk scored 52 seconds into the period, whacking a Gallagher rebound past the Islanders goaltender. David Desharnais and Plekanec scored goals 2:27 apart in the middle of period, giving the Canadiens an insurmountable 6-2 lead.
“We came out really flat in the third,” Tavares said. “There were five or six minutes that really killed us. We played hard after that, once we got down but it’s just unfortunate that we made it a tough night on our goaltender.”
The Islanders made a push after Plekanec’s second of the game. Lee beat Tokarski with a long-range wrister from the top of the circle at 14:50 while Tavares was the last Islander to touch the puck in a goalmouth scramble that Subban ultimately kicked across his own goal line.
Halak made 27 saves on 33 shots, while Chad Johnson made two saves in relief. Tokarski, filling in for the injured Carey Price, made 27 saves in the win.
The loss was the Islanders second to the Canadiens this season, with the third and final regular-season meeting taking place on March 14 at Nassau Coliseum.
The Islanders wrap up their pre- all-star schedule Monday afternoon against the Philadelphia Flyers. Puck drop is at 1 p.m.