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Islanders rue missed chances in Stadium Series

by Brian Compton /

NEW YORK -- The New York Islanders were given every opportunity to win at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday night in their first-ever outdoor game.

The Islanders failed to capitalize on two power plays in the first period and didn't convert on two more during the final 40 minutes in a 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers in the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series.

The missed opportunities cost the Islanders two more valuable points in the standings and extended their losing streak to four games (0-3-1). The teams will play again Friday night at Madison Square Garden.

Of course, it wasn't easy to generate offensive chances in the conditions the teams played in Wednesday, with temperatures in the high teens by the time the final horn sounded.

But the Islanders allowed the Rangers to tie the game 40 seconds after Brock Nelson broke a scoreless tie at 18:33 of the second period, and they were outshot by their bitter rivals 14-6 in the third.

For a team desperate for points, a case could be made the desperation was missing during the final 20 minutes. The Islanders wasted a solid performance from goalie Evgeni Nabokov, who stopped 32 of 34 shots in his first start since Jan. 6 due to a lower-body injury.

"We've got to do a better job of being harder on pucks and being better in front of our goaltender," Isles captain John Tavares said. "That's been our Achilles heel at times this year, and they obviously gained some momentum off that."

Rangers forward Brad Richards gave the Islanders a golden opportunity to jump out to an early lead when he was whistled for hooking Thomas Vanek 3:24 into the game. The Islanders experienced difficulty setting up in the offensive zone, though, and failed to record a shot on goal during the man advantage.

They received another power play late in the first period when Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello interfered with Peter Regin. Again, the Islanders came up empty, recording two shots on goal, including a wrister by Calvin de Haan from 60 feet from the net.

"We talked about special teams being an integral part of this game, and you know, we had them early, and we didn't capitalize on our chances," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "Looking back at that, obviously, it's the last few games to be honest with you. So something's got to be better."

The Islanders managed to grab a 1-0 lead with 1:27 left in the second period on Brock Nelson's 10th goal of the season. But their inability to keep bodies away from the front of the net allowed Benoit Pouliot to tie the game 40 seconds later, when he buried Derek Brassard's rebound to make it 1-1.

"We find a way to let up goals sometimes in the beginning of games and last minutes of periods," Islanders center Frans Nielsen said. "It was a goal for us. We've got to be better there."

Nabokov kept his team in the game with a couple of nice saves early in the third period against Derek Stepan and Rick Nash, but Lubomir Visnovsky couldn't keep the puck in at the Rangers blue line moments later and it led to a 4-on-2 rush the other way. It culminated with what proved to be the game-winning goal by Daniel Carcillo at 4:36.

"You lose the two points, it's a missed opportunity, especially considering where we're at in the standings," Nabokov said. "Every two points is huge for us."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

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