After finishing off a grueling run of 18 games in 33 days, the Islanders understandably might be running on fumes. But given that they were facing a Hurricanes team that also played the night before and had the added bonus of flying into town Saturday, that wasn't much of an excuse.
The egg the Isles laid Saturday at the Coliseum, a 5-3 loss to the Metropolitan Division basement-dwelling Hurricanes, featured a team headed for the draft lottery outworking the division leaders for the better part of two periods, long enough to build a three-goal lead before clamping down in the third.
"They seemed to have more energy than us," Matt Martin said after the Islanders gave up four second-period goals. "We just have to put it behind us."
Michael Grabner's speedy rush and pinpoint wrist shot past Cam Ward got the Islanders off on the right foot at 11:47 of the first, though the Hurricanes answered with Jay McClement's rebound goal on which he clearly turned his skate to direct the puck behind Chad Johnson.
After a review from the NHL operations room in Toronto, however, it was determined to not be a kicking motion and the game went to intermission tied.
The Hurricanes had the first 10 shots on goal in the opening five minutes. "They seemed like they had a lot more jump than we did," Johnson said.
The Isles' 30th-ranked penalty kill let them down and let Carolina take control in that second period. Just 28 seconds into Carolina's first power play of the game and barely more than a minute into the second period, Justin Faulk corralled a rebound, took his time to settle the puck and snapped one past Johnson at 1:26.
McClement scored a much cleaner one as the trailer on an odd-man rush at 9:50. Nikolay Kulemin answered with a strong rush to fend off Faulk and beat Ward at 15:11 -- his first goal in 18 games -- and the Islanders had a couple of chances to draw even late in the second.
But pressing for the tie left some space for a counter-attack, and the Hurricanes did just that. Andrej Nestrasil's shot squeaked through Johnson's pads and Brad Malone swept it into the net at 17:46. That was followed quickly by a high-sticking minor to Ryan Strome and another power-play goal against, this one by Michal Jordan with 7.8 seconds to play in the middle period.
"If you don't execute, if I don't make the saves, they'll capitalize on the power play," said Johnson, who made 36 saves. "It's very disappointing."
"Kulie scores a big goal and we're right there, as bad as we played up to then," Jack Capuano said. "Two power-play goals is big. You can't give up two and expect to win."
John Tavares scored his 30th goal of the season midway through the third, but the Islanders managed only five shots on Ward in the final period, out of gas after their busiest stretch of the season.
They head off on a four-game road trip beginning Tuesday in Dallas still in good playoff position but perhaps in need of a rejuvenation after this past month.
"We just weren't good," Cal Clutterbuck said. "We started poorly, shook ourselves out of it a bit and shot ourselves in the foot with penalties. All in all, pretty disappointing."