EDMONTON, Alberta — Just when you thought the Islanders had found the better side of their game, they go and do this.
The best thing you could say about Thursday night in Edmonton is that the 4-2 loss to the Oilers did not end up quite as bad as it looked after the first 20 minutes. Aside from Ilya Sorokin in nets, though, the Islanders struggled in every area.
They couldn’t transition up the ice. They couldn’t run a clean power play. They weren’t quick enough, getting beaten to nearly every puck and muscled off when they did match Edmonton’s speed. They struggled to do even the basics — passing and handling — in this mess of a loss.
After one period, the Oilers had two goals and the Islanders had four shots, with high-danger chances at 14-0. The Islanders regained their footing a little bit after that to make the score more competitive, but make no mistake, they were thoroughly outplayed on the night.
Mathew Barzal’s snipe from the right faceoff dot at 4:42 of the second period helped the Islanders find their footing as it cut Edmonton’s lead in half to 2-1. But it was shortly followed by goals from Dylan Holloway and Zach Hyman to make it 4-1, Oilers, the latter coming off a brutal defensive breakdown that let Hyman skate in on Sorokin unimpeded.
Cal Clutterbuck, who was playing his first game back after a finger injury, got on the scoresheet with 53 seconds to go in the second to keep the game within arm’s length going into the third.
That allowed the Islanders to keep some dignity in the final score, and take something positive away from the evening, but the final 20 minutes came and went without the Islanders seriously challenging for the victory.
Leon Draisaitl put the Oilers up 1-0 at 9:26 of the first with a one-timer from the left circle off Connor McDavid’s feed, crashing the door down after the Oilers knocked on it for the entire power play. When the Islanders got a chance of their own on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ hooking penalty at 17:19, they responded by getting one shot on goal and giving up a shorthanded tally, as Kailer Yamamoto got up the ice unimpeded to double the lead to 2-0.
In truth, the Islanders were lucky at that point to only be down two. On another night, as in Vancouver 48 hours prior, they might have gone into the dressing room, found their footing and competed for a win over the next 40 minutes.
They did compete harder, and got the goals to prove it. But they never sniffed victory, even against a shaky Oilers team.
Every team has bad games, but the Islanders have thrown up two stinkers in their last three — don’t forget Sunday’s loss in Seattle.
A win in Calgary on Friday can wipe this one from their memories quickly, but even on the heels of four wins in five, it’s hard to spin this one positively. The loss knocks the Islanders down to 22-16-2 and sets up Friday’s match as a chance to salvage a .500 record on the four-game trip out west. They also lose two points on the Rangers and Capitals, who both took victories on Thursday.
More important than the big-picture impact on the standings, though, is that the Islanders failed to compete for 60 minutes with a team that, like them, is fighting for a wild-card playoff spot. In November at UBS Arena, the Islanders rode Sorokin to a blowout win over the Oilers.
Out here on the prairie, it wasn’t just McDavid and Draisaitl overwhelming them — it was a loss from top to bottom.