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by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
The Islanders fell 7-2 to the Carolina Hurricanes at the RBC Center on Wednesday night. Falling behind by three goals in the first period, the Islanders battled hard, but couldn’t put themselves on the scoreboard until the third when Michael Grabner tallied a goal in his first game back from a groin injury and PA Parenteau finally helped the Islanders to their first power play goal in three games.

Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro, who faced 32 shots, got his second straight start in net for the Islanders. He couldn’t be blamed for all seven goals. Defensive letdowns were a problem for the Islanders as they created turnovers which gave the Hurricanes odd-man rushes down ice and open space to take shots from the slot.

“Well, (tonight was) obviously pretty ugly,” Gordon said after the game. “Our play away from the puck was horrendous tonight. We were starting to break out when we didn’t even have possession of the puck and there’s no more evidence than the Canes’ last goal. Our play in the defensive zone isn’t even about awareness right now. We’re going in to the defensive zone with no purpose. It’s something we have to get better at quickly because it’s costing us games.”

The loss didn’t come without the Islanders fair share of chances in the Canes defensive zone. Cam Ward made 31 saves for the Hurricanes. Twenty-four of those shots came in the final two periods as the Islanders outshot the Canes by seven in the final 40 minutes.

While the objective was to come out strong, score the first goal for the early lead and play hard for a full 60 minutes, the Canes (who hadn’t scored a goal at home prior to Wednesday night’s game) came out hungry and the Islanders were unable to take advantage of Carolina’s home scoring drought.

“It’s tough,” said DiPietro about falling behind 3-0 in the first period. “You don’t want to get down early. It kind of changes the whole momentum of the game. Hopefully one of these nights we can get the lead early and go from there.”

But Wednesday night the Canes were the ones who got the early lead when Joe Corvo tallied a slap shot from the slot at 10:12 of the first period as DiPietro was tripped up and couldn’t get there in time. Jon Matsumoto tallied two goals for the Hurricanes, the second (15:48 of the first) as well as final goal (19:26 of the third), for his first career NHL goals.

Corvo’s goal, followed by Eric Staal’s rocket and Matsumoto’s final tally were all shot from the slot with no Isles defensemen applying pressure or creating traffic in front of the net. Brandon Sutter, Jiri Tlusty and Jeff Skinne’s goals all came on rebounds deep in the Islanders defensive zone.

“They have pretty good speed, put pucks towards the net and cause a lot of traffic in front,” defenseman Mike Mottau said about the Hurricanes. “So while they did a good job offensively, we needed to tighten up defensively, close gaps and not give them as much time and space.”

Coach Gordon plans to hold a meeting Thursday morning to discuss Wednesday night’s loss as well as some areas the players need to be better at. Number one on his list is the back check.

“The biggest thing that I’m disappointed with is that we should have had a pretty good learning experience in that Montreal game on the back check,” Gordon said. “I’ve addressed it with several players in different instances and now it’s more than addressing it. We’ll address it by playing time. It’s gotten to the point now where we can’t allow ourselves to lose games for the wrong reasons.”

Both of the Islanders goals arrived during the third period. The first came as Grabner passed to Doug Weight upon entering the neutral zone. As Weight skated down the right side of the boards, he backhanded the puck out front of goaltender Cam Ward and Grabner snapped the puck high into the netting at 2:12.

The Islanders second goal was tallied on the power play as Blake Comeau wrapped around the back of the net to find Parenteau open for a wrist shot at 15:29, ringing off the crossbar and into the net.

But two goals in the third period weren’t enough for the Islanders to leave Raleigh victorious. In order to win and earn two points in Ottawa, defenseman Mark Eaton said, “It’s hard to pinpoint one thing (we need to be better at). I think attitude is one thing. We have to know that we are better, know that we can be better and we all know what we have to do to be successful. It’s just a question of we have to do that and we have to do it for 60 minutes a night.”
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