After eight rounds of a shootout, the Isles dropped a 2-1 decision to the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday evening. Anders Lee scored the Isles sole goal in regulation and Thomas Greiss made 31 saves, but Justin Williams scored the eventual game-decider in his season debut.
"It was a real good effort," Head Coach Barry Trotz said. "I would take this game style of game night-in and night-out. That was a playoff style game."
The Isles solid effort and point earned helped to at least partially flush out the sour taste of losing 6-4 to Washington - and surrendering a 4-1 lead in the process - on Saturday. The Isles took home one point and established a crucial foundation to build off of after losing four of their last five games (1-3-1). They put forth a desperate, relentless effort and showed improvements towards getting back to their detailed and disciplined style of Islander hockey.
"We take a lot of pride in what we do," Lee said. "It was a sour feeling last night. I don't think that's going to sit well with anyone, but that stung. We have to come together as a group and individually like we saw yesterday and come together and get closer. We were good on the bench; we were good in the room. We kept moving. It was a shootout loss, but we took a step forward."
The Canes first goal came from an all-too familiar sequence for the Isles; a failed attempt to clear their zone cost them. The zone exit was halted by a swarm of Canes players who regained possession, and worked the puck to Andrei Svechnikov at the right faceoff circle, whose one timer deflected off Noah Dobson and dipped below the elbow of Greiss at 5:45 in the first period.
Video: NYI@CAR: Lee cashes in on rebound to knot score
LEE RAISES HIS LEVEL:
The Isles matched the score 1-1 with 56 seconds left in the second period, as Lee buried his 15th goal of the season. It was an Islander-hockey style creation as the Isles forechecked hard and stifled Carolina goalie James Reimer's attempt to clear the puck. Once the Isles regained possession, Mayfield fired a shot from the point which Casey Cizikas tipped on net. Reimer spat his rebound out right to the stick of Lee, who was on the doorstep.
After striking twine, the Isles captain leaped up and immediately drew down to his knees clenching his fists with relief.
"I was just trying to get them going," Lee said of his performance and team-high eight shots on net. "I think we all were just trying to do that."
The effort of the captain - especially in a response game - was noticed by his teammates.
"He was a horse tonight," Cizikas said of Lee. "He was big down low. He was strong. He was making it a nightmare for their defenseman. He's not an easy guy to contain. He played hard. He led us tonight and got us that big goal."
Video: NYI Recap: Lee, Islanders lose to Hurricanes in SO
GREISS RETURNS BETWEEN THE PIPES:
Thomas Greiss returned between the pipes for the first time since Jan. 14 and made his 20th start of the season. He denied 31 shots and made impactful and timely saves to keep the Isles in the game and keep the feisty Canes at bay.
Reimer denied Barzal on a breakaway in the waning minutes of the third period and the Canes turned around and tested Greiss with a two-on-one rush. Ryan Dzingel was stopped in a flash as Greiss got his left pad on the attempt and Greiss' save on Joel Edmundson in the slow ultimately sent the Isles into overtime.
"He had a phenomenal game," Lee said. "He had a great game. He always plays well in this building. He saw the puck all night. He had some huge saves, especially in regulation there and in OT."
Greiss is now 2-0-1 in his last three starts.
Video: CAR 2 vs NYI 1 (SO): Casey Cizikas
BAILEY LEAVES GAME WITH ILLNESS:
Josh Bailey left the game in the second period and did not return due to illness. Trotz said that Bailey was feeling sick before the game, but worsened as the night went on. During the first two periods, Bailey logged 4:42 time on ice and played alongside Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier.
"He was [sick] a little bit and during warmups," Trotz confirmed. "The conversation is pretty simple with a player, 'Can you be a contributing player in the lineup tonight?' If he wasn't, Ross Johnston was ready to go. He waited until the last minute. He came to me and said, 'I believe I'm going to be a contributing player.' Then he got worse and worse on the bench."
In Bailey's absence, the Isles penalty kill came up big as they went two-for-two against the Canes, whose power play is ranked ninth in the NHL.
"We had a big penalty kill when we needed it," Trotz said. "It's been tough. Josh Bailey has been one of our better penalty killers, but he got sick and didn't complete the game. Obviously, we're without [Cal] Clutterbuck. Then, Casey takes a penalty and you start looking down the bench at guys that haven't taken a penalty in a while. Guys like Leo [Komarov] or [Beauvillier]. It was a real good effort."
LEDDY PLAYS 700TH NHL GAME:
Nick Leddy suited up in his 700th-career game. The 28-year-old defenseman has amassed 302 points (63G, 239A) during his 10 seasons in the NHL. Through 40 games this season with the Isles, the Eden Prairie, Minnesota native 18 points (3G, 15A).
The Isles close out their third meeting in nine days against the New York Rangers on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. After raising morale against Carolina, the Isles hope to build off of that as they take on another division opponent.
"I thought as a group we competed and did really well," Cizikas said. "I thought we did all of the little things that we need to as a group to be competitive throughout the game that we could build off of, especially going into our next game that will be a big matchup. Take what we did tonight and continue into the next one."