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Islanders search for scoring answers

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders

With a 3-0 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night at Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders extended their winless streak to six games as they continued to struggle to light the lamp.

“We just have to find a way to get on the scoreboard, that’s really the key right now,” Islanders forward Josh Bailey said. “It all comes down to the end of the game. It was a one goal game. We should definitely have more than enough goals to win. There was one lucky bounce and an empty-netter and it’s a 3-0 game. It doesn’t really show the type of game it actually was.”

The Islanders dominated play in the second period outshooting the Jets by a 3:1 margin, and 28-14 through the first 40 minutes, completing 60-minutes of hockey leading shots 34-26 as six Islanders players recorded three shots each. Matt Martin recorded nine hits, Tavares won 11-of-20 faceoffs.

Josh Bailey lines up Tanner Glass at Nassau Coliseum on November 3, 2011. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Eighteen seconds into the third period, sophomore defenseman Travis Hamonic tried to spark something extra in the Isles as he dropped the gloves with Evander Kane.

“Obviously, I preach that you fight for a few reasons and trying to spark the team is one of the main ones,” Hamonic said. “I found a willing combatant in Evander Kane, he’s a tough kid and I think he wanted to go as well, so I just tried to do it for those reasons.”

But the fact is, goals win games and the Islanders couldn’t convert for even one.

As a result, Head Coach Jack Capuano said it’s time to make some changes before the Islanders play their next game at home Saturday against the Washington Capitals. He said he gave the players – who meshed well and put up big numbers in the second half of last season – adequate time to adjust and build chemistry in the first 10 games, but that something needs to change.

“You have to score goals and I’m not going to keep harping on it, but they have to find a way to get it done,” Capuano said. “So I’m probably going to change some lines, do some different things, going into Washington.”

The Isles haven’t scored an even-strength goal in 139:15 of play, as the last goal scored 5-on-5 was Martin’s first of the season in the team’s shootout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Oct. 27. The Islanders scored two power play goals in their OT loss to the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 29.

By far the most productive line, the Matt Moulson-John Tavares-PA Parenteau line had early success. Tavares put up consecutive four-point nights to climb to the top of the league’s scoring charts. Since then, the line has continued to create chances, but have not scored 5-on-5 since Tavares notched his first hat trick of the season in the Isles 4-2 win over the New York Rangers on Oct. 15.

Not including that top line, five players have converted for a goal this season. Michael Grabner (three), Frans Nielsen (two), Martin, Mark Streit and Andrew MacDonald combine for eight goals, just one goal more than Tavares and two less than the top line’s 10 goals in the first 10 games.

Matt Moulson looks for scoring opportunities around the paint and takes pressure from Brett Festerling and Zach Bogosian at Nassau Coliseum on November 3, 2011. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
“We have some guys in there that have obviously put some numbers up in the past, but I think you have to want it a little bit more,” Capuano said. “I think whatever you are doing, it’s a game of inches and if maybe you just work a little bit harder in certain areas you’ll get there. But that’s what we are looking for.”

Capuano continued, “As a coach you start to play the guys you have to play. We have given guys an opportunity now to see what they can do, but the bottom line is minutes don’t mean anything to me anymore, we have to win games.”

Winning games starts with generating more offensive chances.

As for solving the scoring woes, Hamonic said, “There’s no other answer about it than working hard. You can’t let yourself off the hook and we can’t let each other off the hook, that’s part of holding each other accountable and the only way we are going to get through this is hard work.”

Bailey said the best way to move forward is having “short-term memories.”

“We are certainly not worried with this team we have in the room,” Bailey said. “We believe in what we have in this room. That’s no joke, when we say that, we truly mean it. It’s not just something being tossed around. I think we have been practicing hard, working hard and doing the things we need to do and it’s just a matter of getting some results. If we keep doing the things we are doing, it’ll come.”

For now, keeping positive seems to be the key.

Notes: Evander Kane scored the Jets game-winner 4:21 into the first period; five minute later, he would come up empty on a penalty shot. Then, with less than four minutes remaining in the third period, Johnny Oduya scored to propel the Jets ahead 2-0 and Alexander Burmistrov provided the final margin on an empty net at 17:44.

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