The New York Islanders offense struggled Saturday, as the team fell 3-1 to the Montreal Canadiens at a sold out Nassau Coliseum.
Josh Bailey scored with 2:18 to play, drawing the Islanders to within one, but the home team couldn’t muster enough offense to overcome a 2-0 deficit. Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty gave the Canadiens the lead, while Lars Eller iced the game with a late empty netter.
“For whatever reason we’re a little snakebitten,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “Things aren’t finding its way like they used to when we were scoring three, four or five goals a game and the power play was clicking.”
Carey Price was the difference Saturday, making 35 saves for the win, constantly halting Islanders surges. Price didn’t give up many second chances, but made key saves when he did, including a highlight reel save on Matt Martin midway through the second period. Martin was in prime positioning to sweep in Calvin de Haan’s rebound, but didn’t get a solid shot off, giving Price enough time to swivel around on his stomach and trap the puck before it crossed the line.
“They have an MVP goalie there,” Capuano said. “He played well. He made three or four saves that were outstanding and could have changed the game around.”
Price’s second best stop came in the dying minutes of the game, as he laid down his paddle in a goalmouth scramble, somehow stopping a rebound in tight.
The Islanders were playing the second half of back-to-back games Saturday, but showed no signs of it in the first period, out-attempting the Canadiens 25-12. The Islanders also dictated much of the third period, but lost the game early in the second, as Plekanec and Pacioretty scored twice in a 2:15 span.
Plekanec was the finisher on a well-executed three-on-two rush 58 seconds into the middle frame. Former Islander PA Parenteau drove into the zone with speed, dropped the puck to Alex Galchenyuk in the slot before Galchenyuk fed Plekanec at the side of the net.
The Canadiens second goal was a little harder to swallow. Michal Neuvirth couldn’t handle a long shorthanded dump-in behind the net, letting it go to Eller, who passed out front to Pacioretty for the easy goal. Neuvirth recovered from the gaffe, stopping the next 19 shots, en route to a 27-save performance.
“We can’t be giving those up,” John Tavares said. “And we need the power play to step up to keep us in games. It’s costing us games right now.”
Bailey’s goal – an unassisted slap shot in the slot – came on the power play, but the Islanders finished the night 1-for-5 and conceded a shorthanded goal. Bailey’s goal also wasn’t a product of the Islanders’ power-play setup, as the puck was kicked out into the slot from a crowd along the boards.
“We did some good things, but it was just another one of those nights,” Tavares said. “These are tight games and you just have to find a way.”
The Islanders hit the road for their next two games, starting Tuesday night in Chicago. Puck drop from United Center is at 8:30 eastern time.