Barry Trotz was displeased with the way the New York Islanders went into the Christmas break - and the coach wasn't too pleased with how the Isles came out of it.
The Islanders fell 5-2 to the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center on Friday night, surrendering five straight goals after taking an early 1-0 lead. Friday marked the fifth time this season the Isles had given up five-or-more goals, with three of those coming in the past five games.
"You get as much out as you put in and we haven't put enough in lately," Trotz said. "In terms of our structure, commitment and even accountability to each other. We have a little cheat in our game. We're playing full and it's hard to be hungry when you're full."
With the loss, the Isles fall to 1-3-1 in their last five contests. They are 5-5-1 over their last 11 games and while they are still second in the Metropolitan Division with 49 points, their cushion is down to one point over the third place Pittsburgh Penguins (48 points).
"We weren't as sharp or as hard as we needed to be. That's been consistent a little bit here," Anders Lee said. "We've had a tough stretch and it's within this room that we have to check ourselves a bit here and reset because we're not playing the way that we had been to get us to this point and these last five games haven't been our identity and we haven't played to who we are. We have to figure this out quickly."
BLACKHAWKS CHASE GREISS IN FIRST PERIOD:
The Islanders talked about needing to get off to a good start after a three-day holiday break and they seemingly did, as Ross Johnston opened the scoring at 5:50. But the game took a turn for the Islanders, as the Blackhawks responded with three straight goals, taking a 3-1 lead into the first intermission and chasing Thomas Greiss (8 saves) in the process.
Dennis Gilbert's first-career NHL goal locked the game 1-1, as his backhander deflected off Casey Cizikas' stick and found its way through Greiss' five-hole at 7:34. Dominik Kubalik's shot from the slot caromed off Nick Leddy's stick and past Greiss at 9:46, while Alex DeBrincat beat Greiss high from the slot at 11:56, ending the goalie's night early. In total, Greiss allowed three goals on 11 shots, while Semyon Varlamov stopped 17-of-19 in relief.
While some may put two of the three goals down to unfortunate deflections, the Islanders felt that the current slide goes deeper than puck luck.
"It's just mistakes in our own end that are killing us," Casey Cizikas said. "We're shooting ourselves in the foot and we're not rebounding, we're getting down on ourselves and we have to find a way to be heavy and play a full 60."
The Islanders mounted a push in the second period, outshooting Chicago 10-1 in the opening seven minutes and 16-8 in the period, but they could not solve Robin Lehner (38 saves). Anders Lee had the best chance, as his deflection hit the base of the post and briefly sat in the crease before Lehner and Duncan Keith could clear it from danger.
Chicago pulled away in the third period, as Jonathan Toews made it 4-1 50 seconds in, stripping Ryan Pulock in the neutral zone before beating Varlamov far side. Matthew Highmore's banked sharp-angled shot off Pulock to make it 5-1 at 3:03 of the third period.
Cizikas scored his third shorthanded goal of the season - a career-high - with 3:28 to play to round out the scoring, but that's as close as the Islanders came. The focus now shifts to Sunday's tilt in Minnesota and righting the ship after Friday night's loss.
"You have to work your way through it," Trotz said. "You can say we're not getting the breaks, but luck sort of follows your work ethic a little bit and our work ethic hasn't been as solid as it needs to be. Therefore some of our protocols and predictabilities, guys are not recognizing or not executing. That's on them when they are on the ice and on me for making sure they are. We'll work through it."
Video: NYI@CHI: Johnston taps in the feed from Bailey
JOHNSTON TIES CAREER-HIGH IN GOALS:
Ross Johnston opened the scoring at 5:50 of the first period, tapping in a backdoor feed from Josh Bailey. The goal was Johnston's third of the season, which matches his career-high, set during the 2017-18 season.
Johnston's assignment alongside Bailey and Brock Nelson was a late change after Johnston took morning skate line rushes with Matt Martin and Casey Cizikas.
The Islanders continue their three-game road trip on Sunday evening when they take on the Minnesota Wild. Puck drop is at 6 p.m. eastern.