The game plan had been clear going into Thursday night's contest against the Los Angeles Kings, a big, physical team trying to avoid missing the playoffs a year after winning the Stanley Cup.
The Islanders were to play fast, play aggressive, control the puck. Coach Jack Capuano said it, Kyle Okposo said it, Frans Nielsen said it, Thomas Hickey said it.
It was easier said than done.
The Islanders' speed and athleticism were there for the final two periods, but late-game puck mismanagement was costly as they couldn't stop the surge of a desperate team. The Kings rattled off 37 shots and eventually squeaked in the winner when Anze Kopitar tipped in Andrej Sekera's shot-pass at 15:37 of the third as the Islanders fell, 3-2, their sixth straight loss at the Coliseum.
A clearly frustrated Capuano credited the goal to a series of weak plays -- from a weak breakout to a weak clear attempt that eventually had the Kings putting heavy pressure on an otherwise excellent Jaroslav Halak.
"As the game goes on, you've gotta grind it out," Capuano said. "The guys try to get cute and it's not going to cut it . . . You just can't turn a switch on and off, and I've seen enough of some guys playing with certain guys."
The Islanders have lost six of their last seven, scoring only one goal in five of those losses.
Capuano said there likely will be lineup changes in the coming days in an effort to find some chemistry. The Penguins lost to the Hurricanes, so the Islanders remain in second place in the Metro Division. Pittsburgh has a game in hand.
"It's just in the little details," John Tavares said. "We just have to be sharper in that . . . We're not being hard enough on the puck and we're not doing the little things."
The Islanders came out flat in the first period and were forced to rely on Halak, who saved all 14 shots in the period and survived two odd-man rushes early in the game.
Halak squelched his first two-on-one about seven minutes in. He stopped Marian Gaborik's shot, only to have it deflect to Kopitar, whose wrister was smothered in the paint.
The offense woke up in the second, when Travis Hamonic corralled a turnover in the offensive zone and took on a lone Kings defender with the help of Nikolay Kulemin and Nielsen. Kulemin fed Nielsen, whose snap shot from the top of the right circle streaked past Jonathan Quick for a 1-0 lead at 5:31.
After that, momentum looked to be on the Islanders' side, especially after they stifled the Kings' two-man advantage midway through the second. But moments after they killed both penalties, Nick Shore tipped in a feed from Dustin Brown at 10:37 for the equalizer.
Particularly damaging was Tyler Toffoli scoring a shorthanded goal on another two-on-one, putting in the rebound of Jeff Carter's shot at 1:55 of the third. Johnny Boychuk's slap shot with 12 seconds left in a power play tied it at 2 at 3:31.
"We gave them momentum when we were playing well because we didn't manage the puck," Capuano said, calling the loss "frustrating" on at least three separate occasions.