The New York Islanders fell 4-1 to the New York Rangers on Wednesday night at UBS Arena.
With the loss the Islanders' losing skid has now reached seven-straight games, the team's longest stretch since Oct. 23 - Nov. 4, 2010.
Andy Andreoff scored the Islanders' lone goal of the game and his first goal with the organization since joining in September. Semyon Varlamov made his fourth start of the season and made 17 saves on 21 shots in the loss and is still in search of his first win of the season.
Chris Kreider scored twice, including once on the power play and Kevin Rooney also posted a two-goal performance. Igor Shesterkin made 20 saves on 21 shots in the win, his first ever against the Islanders.
Adversity continued to set in for the Islanders before facing off against their crosstown rivals. The unfortunate circumstances continued to hit the Islanders as the team's blueline was depleted down to just one regular, Scott Mayfield. On Tuesday afternoon, the team announced that Zdeno Chara was added to the list of six other players who were placed in COVID-19 protocols. Then, before warmups, the team announced that Noah Dobson was out, day-to-day, with a lower-body injury.
That news, in tandem with the loss of the team's scoring leader Brock Nelson - who suffered a lower body injury against Toronto on Sunday - continued to take a toll as the Islanders' lineup against the Rangers was without eight regulars.
Even despite the vacancies, the Islanders put forth a decent effort and one that they can build off.
"Today I thought we played a real solid game for a lot of the game," Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz said. "We did some things we didn't need to do and that put a little more stress on us, but from the standpoint of the people that were in, our back end is a little bit depleted right now… We did lots of good things. I'm not going to look at the score, I'm just looking at how we played and scoring chances. We were right there in terms of chances and all that. The effort is there. If the effort wasn't there I would be quite concerned, but the effort is there. We're not getting the results and it's not easy."
"The biggest thing is to just keep it simple and not try to do too much," said Mayfield, who wore an 'A' for the third-straight game. "You just have to dig deep. You can only control certain things, work ethic, attitude, stuff like that and that's what we have to focus on."
The team skated to a 0-0 score by the end of the first period, where shots were tied 8-8. They killed off two penalties and displayed a promising power-play effort through their two opportunities in the first 20 minutes of play, but by the end of the second period were in a 2-0 hole.
The Rangers capitalized on their chances and scored the icebreaker 29 seconds into the second period on a power play of their own after Mathew Barzal took a hooking penalty on the period's opening draw.
From the goal line, Kreider deflected Strome's pass off his stick and over Varlamov's glove to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
The Rangers then doubled their lead 2-0 at 14:28 as they made the Islanders pay for a neutral zone turnover. Barclay Goodrow stripped Otto Koivula of the puck and fed his linemate Ryan Reaves. Varlamov stopped Reaves' initial shot, but Goodrow circled behind the neck and slid it behind the out-of-position netminder for an easy tap-in by Rooney.
Despite being down in a 2-0 hole to start the third period, the Islanders showed some resolve in the third period. Andreoff redirected a long-range shot from Koivula to put the Islanders on the board at 3:52.
The Islanders' one-goal deficit was short lived as the Rangers extended their lead up to 4-1 in the remainder of the final period. The Rangers' first strike of the third period came just 20 seconds after Andreoff's goal.
"Right after we scored, you got the building hopping, you're right there," Trotz said. "Then, the next shift you give up a goal. Those are things that are hard to deal with mentally more than anything."
In a quick transition place up the ice, Reaves toe dragged past a sliding Thomas Hickey, who laid out in an attempt to block a shot, and threaded a pass to the backdoor for Rooney to bury his second goal of the game at 4:12.
The Islanders continued to press in the third, down 3-1, but the Rangers capitalized. Kreider scored his second on the net as his line forced a defensive turnover by the Islanders. Kreider made a drop pass to Zibanejad through his legs then skated to the net front where he finished off a saucer pass from the Rangers winger to make it 4-1 at 11:02 in the final frame.
ABSENCES IN ISLANDERS' LINEUP CONTINUES
The Islanders depth continues to be tested in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak that has sidelined Josh Bailey, Anders Lee, Ross Johnston, Andy Greene, Adam Pelech, Kieffer Bellows and the most recent addition as of Tuesday afternoon, Zdeno Chara.
Those absences in combination with the loss of Ryan Pulock, Brock Nelson and Noah Dobson who are all out with lower-body injuries has taken a sizable toll on the Islanders' lineup, specifically their blueline.
Of the Islanders' six defensemen who dressed against the Rangers, Scott Mayfield was the sole regular. In addition to Robin Salo, Sebastian Aho and Grant Hutton, Paul LaDue and Thomas Hickey were recalled from the Bridgeport Islanders and made their season debuts.
With Nelson out after sustaining a lower-body injury against Toronto on Sunday night, Otto Koivula was also recalled and made his season debut against the Rangers.
LaDue logged 12:47, including 1:35 of time on the penalty kill, had one shot, two hits, one block and was minus two. Hickey totaled the highest ice time among defensemen with 21:07, including 4:23 of time on the penalty kill. Koivula skated 11:28, including 3:18 of power play time, dished out one assist, fired out one shot and threw one assist.
While the Islanders are facing a heap of adversity in the last week and the odds seem to be piling against them, they recognize the severity of the stakes and the need to win games. With that in mind, they are concentrating their focus on incremental steps and on the things that they control with the personnel they have available.
"This is the NHL, these are dreams we've had since we were kids," Casey Cizikas said. "It's not an easy situation that we're in right now, but we have to keep moving forward as a group. That's the biggest thing, the guys that are around right now, keep talking to them [the young guys] Keep working."
The Islanders are focused on their next opportunity to put their best effort forward beginning with their next game on Friday against Pittsburgh.
"I'd like to see us get a victory in this building," Trotz said. "Our fans deserve that, and we need it for ourselves; for the standings, for a little bit of confidence in this building... There's no quit in the team, that's for sure. They are giving it everything they have. We've just got to find a way to get a point, get two points, get our lineup together and dig ourselves out. It's been done before."
The Islanders close out their four-game opening homestand as they host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night at UBS Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.