The Islanders had been a team that had found ways to battle back in the third period, but that luck ran out on Thursday in a 2-0 loss to the Arizona Coyotes.
It was a power-play goal a minute into the final frame that proved to be too much for the Islanders to overcome. The Islanders had made it a habit of coming back in games, which included three times in which they rallied from down 3-1 in a contest.
“You can’t score if you don’t hit the net, that’s the bottom line,” Islanders head coach Lane Lambert said of the Islanders’ missed shots. New York had 23 missed shots in the loss and 17 attempts blocked by the Coyotes.
Arizona broke a scoreless tie a minute into the third period to take the lead. Clayton Keller moved the puck from along the boards to Travis Boyd, who was sitting in front of the Islanders’ net and redirected the puck past Sorokin.
Matt Martin nearly tied the game with a sharp angle shot that loudly hit off the iron and stayed out of the net moments after the Arizona goal. Mathew Barzal missed an open net midway through the third during a power play opportunity at the 5:51 mark.
The Islanders nearly tied the game yet again later in the period when Casey Cizikas stripped goaltender Karel Vejmelka behind the Yotes’ net. Martin crashed the empty net, but the puck trickled wide as two Arizona defenders crashed to prevent the goal.
Jack McBain put the game away with an empty net goal in the final minute.
“I don’t think we’re trying to miss the net. We’re all trying to score,” Noah Dobson said. “We have to a better job. Grade A chances you gotta put a puck on net. Get pucks through. They did a good job on the power play blocking shots, but sometimes it goes like that. Sometimes they go in, sometimes they get blocked. Just gotta regroup and get ready for Saturday.”
Barzal’s chance in the third presented the Islanders star with another opportunity to break his goalless drought through the first 15 games of the year. He has registered 15 points — all assists — but that first goal has remained elusive.
The Isles’ star said he hasn’t gotten frustrated by his lack of scoring.
“I try to score every game, I try to score every shift,” Barzal said. “As long as the play is there and the impact is there, it’s tough to be frustrated. I just need to fall. It will come.”
The third period had been the Islanders’ period so far this season, outscoring opponents 25-11 and 17-6 over their previous eight games. The Isles had been 9-4-0 this year when they scored in the third and entering Thursday more than 60% of their goals had come in the final frame dating back to Oct. 26.
Most of Thursday’s game had followed a similar pattern plot for the Islander, which saw them being outshot 17-13 through the first two periods, which included a second period where New York recorded just three shots on goal. The Islanders were held without a high-danger chance while they gave up six in the middle frame.
Isles star netminder Ilya Sorokin finished the night with 27 saves in just the Islanders’ second loss in their last nine games. Sorokin came up with a highlight reel save on Nick Bjugstad with roughly 8:30 left on the clock in the second.
The initial stop came somewhat easy before he had to make a diving glove save on the follow-up chance by Bjugstad.
Thursday marked just the second time the Islanders had been shut out this season and the third time dating back to Feb. 2. It also marked the first time that the Isles have dropped a game against a Western Conference opponent this season.
The game had a surprisingly chippy tone to it for two teams that meet twice a year. Matt Martin and Josh Brown dropped the gloves 5:16 into the game which sent both players to the penalty box.
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The fight was Martin’s first since April 11 against Joel Edmundson.
Casey Cizikas went to the Islanders’ room late in the game. Lambert did not have an update on Cizikas when he spoke with reporters after the game.