CHICAGO - The Islanders dropped goaltender Jean-Francois Berube into a pressure-packed situation last night, giving the newly acquired rookie his first NHL start in the United Center against the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks.
Berube's new teammates made it even tougher on the 24-year-old by playing so poorly in front of him.
The 4-1 loss to the Blackhawks featured some dazzling displays by Patrick Kane, Chicago's well-known star, and some equally dazzling displays by Russian rookie Artemi Panarin, who seems well on his way to being known.
But that didn't explain some of the miscues by the Islanders, who weren't consistent with their forecheck or in their own end. They put 25 shots on Chicago goaltender Scott Darling over the first two periods, but rarely had a second or third opportunity on a scoring chance.
The frustration at being shut out and outplayed boiled over with 6:05 left, when John Tavares took an unsportsmanlike conduct and a 10-minute misconduct for arguing with referee Kyle Rehman.
Brent Seabrook scored on the ensuing five-on-three, digging a deeper Islanders hole.
Cal Clutterbuck scored a shorthanded goal with 1:05 to play to break Darling's shutout, but it didn't change the sour feeling left after the loss.
The Hawks made the most of their chances, particularly on their third goal. Kane and Panarin bobbed and weaved around the Islanders zone, finishing off a minute-long possession with Kane redirecting Trevor van Riemsdyk's pass behind Berube at 16:25 of the second.
By then, coach Jack Capuano had shuffled his forward lines in a vain effort to find a sustained attack. The Islanders had 13 shots in the second period, but the only dangerous chance was Nikolay Kulemin's breakaway try early in the period that Darling turned aside.
Kane didn't score Chicago's second goal, but he did pick off Brian Strait's pass behind the Islanders net to feed Panarin, cruising down the slot alone. Berube had no chance at 5:53 of the second.
Capuano had informed Berube that the goaltender, claimed off waivers from the Kings on Tuesday, would be making the start as the Isles flew out here following Friday's 3-2 overtime loss to these same Hawks in Brooklyn.
"You just go out and you play," Capuano said. "There's a little pressure, in this building against the Stanley Cup champs, but there isn't much time for nerves. Just go out, compete and enjoy it."
The Hawks took the lead just 4:07 in, with more good moves from Kane and Panarin. Kane dangled at the point and snapped a shot through traffic that Berube stopped, but van Riemsdyk ranged in from his defense spot, beat Kyle Okposo to the rebound and swept a backhand in.
The Islanders reeled a bit early in the first but started to generate some time in the Hawks zone, led by the Matt Martin-Casey Cizikas-Clutterbuck line. That trio was the only one to survive Capuano's line switching intact through the game.
The team certainly faced a difficult home-and-home to open the season made more so by juggling goaltenders with Jaroslav Halak (upper body) out indefinitely. But last night's effort and result will not sit well two games into a season that was supposed to see the Islanders establish their playoff bona fides.