In a matter of two games, the Islanders went from having a chance to claim the top spot in the Eastern Division to third place, just one spot above the final playoff space made available in the temporary divisions created by the NHL this season.
That’s what two-straight losses to the Washington Capitals will do — a 1-0 defeat followed by a 6-3 drubbing, both at Nassau Coliseum.
Tuesday night brings an end to the mini three-game series (7 p.m. ET), this time coming in the nation’s capital with the Islanders desperate to get back on stable ground with eight regular-season games remaining.
“Any time you have a clunker, we look at ‘what did we do?’ and ‘why did it happen?'” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said. “In this league, there’s not much room for not being mentally sharp. In our game, we weren’t mentally sharp and therefore, there isn’t a lot in your game.”
Before Monday night’s slate of NHL games, the Islanders find themselves in a precarious spot, just four points behind the first-place Pittsburgh Penguins with one less game played but only three points ahead of the fourth-place Boston Bruins, who have played one fewer game than New York.
It makes Tuesday night’s game vital for the Islanders to get back on track for the final push toward the postseason seeing as their spot in the playoffs has not been clinched as of yet.
“They’re playoff hockey games,” defenseman Scott Mayfield said of his team’s matchups against the Capitals this season. “That’s the biggest thing we have to take away from it. We have to raise our game to a different level. I know what we have to do.”
Trotz called out his forwards on Monday, admitting “our forwards have disappointed a little bit for me in terms of just completing their whole job.”
It’s going to prompt some lineup shuffling for Tuesday night in Washington.
“We’re looking at moving some lines around,” Trotz said. “I’m going to have some lineup changes for sure just because it will add some freshness and urgency into the group.”
That included possibly tweaking the first line of Mathew Barzal, Jordan Eberle, and a rotating door of forwards since captain Anders Lee went down with a season-ending torn ACL back in March.
“I think there could be a little shakeup in that line,” he said.