A return to Barclays Center wasn’t enough to stop the New York Islanders losing streak, as they dropped a 4-1 decision to the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday night.
With the Flyers picking up steam in their postseason chase, Monday’s matchup was the proverbial four-point game. The Islanders entered with a five-point lead over the Flyers in the Eastern Conference standings, but saw it shrink to three points by the end of 60 minutes.
“It’s a frustrating time right now,” Kyle Okposo said. “We have 11 games left. We have to find a way to pull ourselves out of it. We have to come together as a team and just play and play better.”
Okposo scored for the Islanders’ lone goal, their fourth straight game with two goals or fewer. Brandon Manning scored the game-winner in the second period, while Nick Cousins opened the scoring and Sam Gagner added the insurance.
“Right now we’re pretty inconsistent,” Okposo said. “Good shift, bad shift, we aren’t really turning the tide and that’s what we need this time of year. We just need to roll them over and put together more good shifts consecutively.”
Frans Nielsen noted the importance of a strong start after Saturday’s game and the Islanders came out flying early. Nikolay Kulemin had a chance to really set the tone Monday, but his breakaway was stopped by Steve Mason (23 saves). The Islanders started the game with a 6-0 shot advantage and outshot the Flyers 8-6 in the opening frame.
The Flyers struck first in the second period, as Cousins tapped in a cross-ice feed from Jakub Voracek. The 1-0 hole lasted all of 90 seconds, as Okposo jammed a loose puck underneath Mason, knotting the game at one.
Brock Nelson had a chance to put the Islanders ahead 2-1 on a second period power play, but Mason robbed him on the doorstep in what turned out to be a key save. Shortly after the Islanders’ power play expired, a Flyers’ clearing attempt hit a linesman and caromed right to Manning, who took it down the wing and snapped it top corner past Greiss at 13:01.
“It’s happened to us a few times this year so it’s pretty frustrating when it does happen,” Okposo said. “But you can’t control it, it happens and you have to deal with it and play better.”
Gagner opened up a 3-1 lead 4:22 into the third, posting up at the top of the crease and finishing a feed from Sean Couturier.
The Islanders pressed to make up the two-goal deficit, but despite a couple of quality chances late, came up short. Ryan Strome banged a rebound off the side of the post with eight minutes to go and Matt Martin redirected a cross-ice feed just past the far post with 5:28 to play.
“We are just [not] having some puck luck right now,” Capuano said. “Matt Martin could have made it a one-goal game, but he shoots it to the wide side on an empty net. Guys aren’t gripping [their sticks] too tight, they are just not getting the luck that they need.”
The loss doesn’t change the Islanders place in the standings. They are still the first Wild Card berth in the Eastern Conference and are two points ahead of the second Wild Card Detroit Red Wings with a game in hand.
“You look at the standings and you have a chance,” Capuano said. “That’s what you want in the last 10, 12 games left. Some teams don’t have a chance. You’ve put yourself in the position to have a chance.”