The Islanders suffered their fourth straight defeat on Wednesday night, falling 3-1 to the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre.
Mathew Barzal put the Islanders ahead early with his 18th goal of the season, but despite 82 shot attempts on net, the Isles couldn't build on their lead. Instead the Canadiens, who blocked more shots (32) than they took (26) scored three unanswered goals, sending the Isles to a fourth consecutive loss at a crucial juncture of the season.
"It's frustrating. The chances were there," said Barzal, who went backhand on Antti Niemi on a breakaway to make it 1-0 at 3:50 of the first period. "That game was winnable."
Wednesday's loss marked the second straight one-goal output from the Islanders, despite carrying long stretches of play in the Canadiens end in the first two periods. Head Coach Doug Weight credited the Canadiens commitment to blocking shots as one of the reasons his team couldn't break through.
Video: NYI Recap: Barzal scores in 3-1 loss to Canadiens
"They did a good job paying the price," Weight said. "Thirty-two blocks, 22 missed nets, we have to get pucks through. We had opportunities, it's just disappointing."
The Canadiens managed to do a lot with a little, scoring three goals on their first 17 shots. Paul Bryon tied the score at 11:02 of the first period, beating Jaroslav Halak (23 saves) from the slot after a Artturi Lehkonen pass deflected off a skate to the Habs forward.
Jonathan Drouin broke the deadlock with a power-play goal in the second period, beating Halak with a slap shot along the ice at 8:29. Brendan Gallagher fed Nikita Scherbak with a back pass from behind the net and Scherbak snuck a shot through Halak to make it it 3-1 at 13:37.
The two goals in the 5:08 stretch proved to be the deciding stretch.
"At the end of the day I think I need to be better for the guys right now," Halak said. "We need every point. That second goal shouldn't go in."
Video: NYI@MTL: Barzal turns on jets, scores gorgeous goal
Weight juggled his lines in the third period, but the Canadiens stuck to their under siege mentality, while Niemi (27 saves overall) held the fort.
"We have to find a way," Ryan Pulock said. "It's getting to a point here where it's kind of do-or-die and we have to find a way to get those two points."
The two teams will meet again on Friday night in Brooklyn.
Here are two additional takeaways from Wednesday's loss:
Wednesday's loss was a costly one, as the Islanders (65 points) failed to make up ground on the Columbus Blue Jackets (69 points) for the second wild card and bumped the Isles below the Carolina Hurricanes (65 points), who hold a game in hand.
The Florida Panthers (64 points) still lurk a point back and now hold four games in hand on the Isles. The Blue Jackets, Hurricanes and Panthers were all off on Wednesday.
DAVIDSON, WAGNER DEBUT:
Brandon Davidson and Chris Wagner made their Islanders' debuts on Wednesday. Davidson played on a pairing with Adam Pelech, while Wagner joined Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck.
Davidson played 16:51 with one shot, one block, two hits and a penalty. Wagner played 12 minutes with one shot, one block and five hits. Both saw time on the Islanders penalty kill.
"I was happy with both. Kind of as labeled," Weight said. "They both work really hard, they are physical players and both worked their butts off tonight. I'll watch the game again, but I was happy with both."