KANATA, Ontario - All things considered, this has been a heartening, rewarding, consistent stretch for the Islanders. They have gone 5-0-2 in their past seven games and have put a new sheen on their season. It’s just that they could have left here feeling a whole lot better.
They allowed a goal with 36.2 seconds left in regulation, then lost to the Senators, 3-2, in overtime Saturday night on a goal by captain Erik Karlsson, the player who has been most outspoken about disliking 3-on-3 overtime.
So after a three-games-in-four-nights grind, they enter a one-game-in-six-nights respite with a bit of a bad taste in their mouths.
“Certainly you’re going for the two and you want the four points on the weekend,” said Travis Hamonic, who seemed to have saved the day with a big effort to clear the zone before Mike Hoffman scored the tying goal while the Senators had pulled goalie Craig Anderson for an extra skater. “Granted, the situation is what it is. We’ll take the point, but we’re not going to be happy about it or satisfied with it. The frustrating part is we gave up a two-goal lead. That’s something we have to address. As of late we’ve been really good in these games so it’s not like it’s a huge issue for us. You never want that to happen and creep into your game.”
The game at Canadian Tire Centre started in most unusual fashion, with a goal by Matt Martin, which is something that had not happened since Oct. 29. It also featured more familiar highlights, particularly solid goaltending, this time by Jaroslav Halak, and a power play goal by Josh Bailey early in the third. It was the fifth power play goal in the past 11 tries.
But like the Islanders, the Senators have an abundance of young talent and an urge to break through. And they did wipe out a 2-0 deficit in the last half of the third period. Mark Stone made it 2-1 at 9:58. Then, after the Islanders had killed a late penalty, Mike Hoffman, the hottest scorer in the league who had been stopped on two breakaways, blasted a shot home through traffic.
Jack Capuano said the tone of the game changed completely when Martin was called for a tripping penalty with 2:58 left. The Senators pulled their goalie and didn’t score, but they gained momentum.
“Tavares came around the net one time, it looked like he was held there late in the game. I just thought they were going to let the guys play,” the coach said. “Hey, if he saw that was a trip, so be it.”
Frans Nielsen had a shot at an empty net that could have put the game away, but he missed. After the penalty expired, Ottawa kept the heat on. The Islanders had a good defensive setup, but, Capuano said of Hoffman’s shot, “It had eyes.”
All eyes on the Islanders, though, have to see the change in the team over the past few weeks. The final minutes notwithstanding, they are not as up and down as they had been. They have reason to think their season might be going somewhere.
“It has something to do with the system we play, the confidence and poise that we’re playing with,” Capuano said. “And I always talk about the trust and belief we have in one another. We have the ability to go into games, knowing we can win. I believe that’s where our team is at right now.”