The New York Islanders’ three-game winning streak came to an end Sunday and in perhaps the unlikeliest of places.
The Islanders lost 3-1 to the Edmonton Oilers, who had lost seven straight games entering Sunday’s action. Casey Cizikas had the Islanders up 1-0, but Edmonton responded with three unanswered goals in the third period, handing the Islanders their first loss on the team’s season-high seven-game road trip.
“You have to score more than one goal per game,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “Tonight we had the game that we wanted, we were playing pretty well, then we mishandled a couple of opportunities and before you know it – they have some skill – and it’s in the back of your net.”
Sunday’s game was the opposite of the team’s first meeting this season, a high-octane 8-1 win for the Islanders in Brooklyn.
While the Islanders scored at will at Barclays Center, chances were few and far between at Rexall Place, an arena where the they’ve lost six straight (0-5-1). Nikolay Kulemin hit the post with 27 seconds to play in the first period and Josh Bailey had Cam Talbot (36 saves) sprawled at the top of his crease, but couldn’t tuck it home after being hooked by Jujhar Khaira.
Cizikas eventually broke through for the Islanders in the final minutes of the second period. Nick Leddy’s point shot caught Adam Clendening up high, stunning the Oilers defenseman as he fell to the ice. Cizikas acted fast, scooping the puck and whipping it high glove side past Talbot at 17:43.
“After the first period we knew we had to be better,” Cizikas said. “We knew we had to get better. We have to capitalize on our opportunities. We have to come out with a better start in Vancouver.”
The Islanders took a one-goal lead into the third period, but it didn’t hold, as the Oilers scored twice in 55 seconds midway through the frame. Anton Lander tied the score with his first of the season, squeezing a shot under Jaroslav Halak’s arm at 10:12. Leon Draisaitl made it 2-1 less than a minute later, sweeping home a rebound after Halak (23 saves) couldn’t control a wrist shot from Taylor Hall.
Suddenly trailing, the Islanders had an opportunity with the man advantage, but couldn’t convert on the power play, which ultimately went 0-for-4 on the night.
Brandon Davidson beat Halak off a one-timer with 3:03 to play, giving the Oilers a two-goal cushion with time ticking down. Capuano pulled his goalie, but to no avail, as the Islanders dropped their last-ever visit to Rexall Place.
“Our best period of hockey was the third, but that’s hockey sometimes, you lose games like that,” Matt Martin said.
While the Rexall era ended, Ryan Pulock made his NHL debut on Sunday, skating 14:46 TOI on a pairing with Brian Strait. Known for his booming slap shot and power-play abilities, Pulock saw 2:37 on the man advantage and finished the game with a hit and a two blocked shots.
“He was poised,” Capuano said of Pulock. “I thought he was good tonight. It’s tough when you’re playing against the speed and deception of the young talent that they have. I really wasn’t worried about the matchups with him. He moved the puck, made a good first pass, his gap control was good and he had a good stick.”
The Islanders continue their road trip on Tuesday night in Vancouver. Puck drop is at 10 p.m. eastern.
The NHL Trade Deadline is Monday at 3 p.m. eastern.
Cizikas and Martin Postgame