The New York Islanders' two-game winning streak was snapped on Tuesday, as they dropped a 4-2 decision to the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre.
Scott Mayfield and Mathew Barzal scored in the third period, as the Isles tried to erase a 3-0 deficit, built by Phillip Danault, Brendan Gallagher and Jeff Petry before Shea Weber iced the game with an empty-netter. Thomas Greiss was solid in keeping the Isles in the game, but was tested with 39 shots and made 36 saves compared to Montreal's Carey Price who saw 23 shots.
Fatigue was a factor, as the Isles entered the second leg of their Atlantic Division back-to-back after defeating the Detroit Red Wings 4-1 on Monday night. The Habs, who had lost their previous eight-straight games - four of which were by a one-goal margin - displayed a different, energetic and desperate effort that dominated the game.
The loss snapped the Isles' eight-game win streak versus Atlantic Division teams this season and was the Isles first regulation defeat to an Eastern Conference team in 16 games (14-1-1).
Video: NYI Recap: Mayfield, Barzal score in 4-2 loss
"We didn't have great legs," Head Coach Barry Trotz said. "We played tired; tired mind, tired body. I think it was probably more tired mind that body. We weren't good enough. We sort of got what we deserved, and I felt if we came out with two points tonight based on our performance that we would have stolen it. To be realistic, we didn't have enough push. They had more urgency and desperation. They deserved to win."
The Canadiens came out of the gate with an abrasive forecheck and immediately tested Greiss with 12 shots in the opening frame. The fatigued Isles were put at an additional disadvantage as Cal Clutterbuck left the game eight minutes into the period after receiving a cross check in the face from Gustav Oloffson. Montreal's dominant effort was rewarded with 0.7 remaining on the clock as Danault snapped in a rebound from his initial shot that was blocked by Mayfield.
The second period served the same fate for the Isles who continued to struggle to get a rhythm and were faced to shuffle lines. Midway through the second period, the Canadiens held a 20-8 shot on goal advantage.
Gallagher put Montreal up 2-0 as he shielded Greiss down low and deflected a shot off the Isles netminder and buried his own rebound at 13:30 of the second period. The play was questionable as Gallagher's stick appeared to surpass the height of the cross bar, but Trotz opted not to challenge the play and jeopardize putting his team on the penalty kill.
"It was all over the map. It was pretty close," Trotz said. "That's a rule that's still vague to me and those circumstances. We felt it was a high stick, but Gallagher was bent over a little bit. I haven't seen too many of those called back. Obviously, it's one goal. If it hits directly into the net it's automatic. If it didn't go in, it went off Greiss and he got the rebound and that is a goal. So, our chance was only on the original high stick and he was bent over a little bit. I haven't seen one of those called back yet, so that was on me."
Video: MTL 4 vs NYI 2: Barry Trotz
The Canadiens extended their lead 3-0 as Petry stunned Greiss with screened snipe from a distance, but the Isles immediately responded as Mayfield scored a slap shot from distance to deny Price the potential shutout. The Isles continued to push as the period ensued and Barzal tipped in Nick Leddy's initial shot from the point to bring the Islanders within one goal with 2:29 left in regulation.
"We were down by two [goals] so we had to fight a bit," Barzal said. "There were definitely some chances we had out there. But at the end of the day, it's a 60-minute game and they dominated probably 50 minutes of it...There wasn't much out there for us tonight. Credit to them. They played hard, desperate hockey and it showed. We couldn't find a breakout; we couldn't get anything through the neutral zone. They did a good job tonight standing us up."
Weber scored on the empty net to seal the Canadiens victory.
Video: NYI@MTL: Mayfield fires slap shot past Price
GREISS STARTS IN GOAL:
Trotz continued with his normal goalie rotation as Thomas Greiss returned between the pipes after missing 46 minutes of his last game on Saturday when he removed himself from the game due to a dizzy spell. Greiss briefly left Tuesday's game in the third period due to an issue with his skate, but he returned after 39 seconds while Semyon Varlamov replaced him in net.
Greiss had his work cut out against the quick and feisty Canadiens who forced him to make difficult and acrobatic saves throughout the night.
"Him and Varly have been our backbones a lot of games this year," Barzal said. "Greiss tonight did a great job of keeping it at two or three there. Both of those guys have been awesome for us."
Video: NYI@MTL: Barzal deflects home Leddy's shot
CLUTTERBUCK LEAVES GAME:
Cal Clutterbuck left the game during the first period after receiving a crosscheck to the face. Clutterbuck took a couple of shifts before he left for the locker room during the first period. Clutterbuck played 2:02 time on ice.
Trotz did not have an immediate update after the game on Clutterbuck's status.
DAL COLLE RETURNS TO LINEUP:
Michael Dal Colle returned to the lineup for the first time in two games after he was healthy scratched. Dal Colle played on the wing of Jordan Eberle and Leo Komarov. Coach Trotz noted that Dal Colle was one of the better players of the game and had his legs in comparison to his worn-out teammates.
Otto Koivula came out of the lineup for Dal Colle.
The Isles return to NYCB Live Nassau Coliseum for the first time since Nov. 13 to take on the Vegas Golden Knights. The Knights are currently ranked third in the Pacific Division with a 14-11-4 record.