It's never a good time for a scoring drought. For a second straight game, one goal was all the Islanders could muster.
Their second straight 2-1 loss, this one to the Senators Friday night at the Coliseum, did not hurt their chances of making the playoffs. They still are 15 points up on the ninth-place Senators. But there is some concern that the Isles -- who trail the Metropolitan Division-leading Rangers by one point and have played four more games -- are not raising their intensity as the regular season winds down, the games get tighter and goals become scarce.
"Just have to elevate your play," said Brock Nelson, who has only three goals in his last 31 games. "The games are tougher down the stretch and into the playoffs. You have to bring it to a whole other level."
This was hardly a lackadaisical effort by the Islanders, who were beaten Tuesday by a fluke Rangers goal. On Friday night, 27-year-old rookie goalie Andrew Hammond again was incredibly sharp for Ottawa, making 22 saves in the second period alone as the Isles pressed with three power-play opportunities.
The Islanders came away from that second period down 2-0 on goals by Matt Puempel and Kyle Turris, the latter a gut-punch of a score with 1:07 left in a period the Islanders controlled for nearly its entirety.
"We weren't able to get second and third opportunities," John Tavares said of Hammond, who finished with 34 saves and is 9-0-1 in his 10 career starts. "He's playing with confidence."
Tyler Kennedy got to the slot to deflect Lubomir Visnovsky's wrist shot past Hammond with 8:01 left in the third, Kennedy's second goal in three games since being acquired from the Sharks. But as happened on Tuesday against the Rangers, the Isles were unable to generate enough pressure in the latter stages of the third period to gain the tie.
It's only the second time all season that the Islanders have been held to fewer than two goals in consecutive games, and it is their first three-game home losing streak of the season.
Again, there's never a good time for such slumps. Especially not with the Canadiens, themselves losers in five of their last six, coming to the Coliseum Saturday night.
"To get your breaks, you've got to earn them," said Jack Capuano, who jumbled his lines in the third period in an attempt to spark some sustained pressure. "I thought we earned a few. You score a power-play goal, maybe it's a different story."
The Islanders' power play generated nine shots on Hammond, mostly during its first two chances in the second. But soon after the Isles' first power play ended, Visnovsky's stick exploded on a one-time try and Tavares turned the puck over, leading to a Senators rush that ended with Puempel hopping off the bench to send a wrist shot past Jaroslav Halak (26 saves).
"We had a couple times we were a little too cute," Tavares said. "I thought we generated enough. We just need to score some goals."