RALEIGH, N.C.—Now we know why Jack Capuano was so displeased after such a good win two days earlier. He no doubt was afraid that the Islanders were going to develop the sort of bad habits that turned up all over the ice here Saturday night.
They were unfocused and unsuccessful, especially in their defensive zone and particularly in the first period, which the Islanders believed set the tone for the Hurricanes’ five-goal second period. It all added up to a 6-3 loss against the Hurricanes, ending a three-game winning streak and providing a sloppy ending to a solid week.
“We’ve got to come out better than that. We left our goaltender out to dry,” said John Tavares, who had a goal and an assist but saw another streak end. This was the first time in his 12 multi-point games this season that the Islanders failed to win.
It was basically an act of mercy that caused Capuano to pull Jaroslav Halak after two periods, given that Carolina’s Andrej Nestrasil and Victor Rask each had two goals in the middle period. Rask’s were the ones that really hurt because they came after the Islanders had gained momentum on Tavares’ goal and a power-play blast by Nick Leddy, cutting the lead to 4-2.
But Ryan Strome took an offensive zone penalty at 18:21 of the second and the Hurricanes capitalized 16 seconds later. Rask added another with only 1.5 seconds left in a period the Islanders would rather forget.
“I think we’ve just got to let this one go, learn from our mistakes. They came out a lot hungrier than us. We’ll learn from that,” Leddy said. “Every night is going to be a battle. They played the way we need to play tonight.”
In retrospect, Capuano might have had a premonition about a night like this. After a big win at home against the Kings Thursday, he was critical. Before the game Saturday night, he admitted that it had been a pretty good game, “But when we had the lead we tried to make the sexy play, not the high percentage play.”
Also in retrospect, that seemed like a prelude to the first period Saturday night when the Islanders trailed only 1-0 but were outshot 17-7, outhit 9-4 and had six giveaways to the Hurricanes’ none. As odd is it might seem, the coach was more concerned about the first period than the five-goals-against second period (a wacky one in which Carolina goalie Cam Ward left with an injury when his team was up 4-2).
“At the end of the day we played 40 minutes of hockey,” Capuano said. “For whatever reason, we didn’t start on time.”
Timing is everything in an Eastern Conference playoff race that looks like the Wild West. Carolina entered the night in 10th place, but finished only four points behind the Islanders, who began the day in fifth. One hiccup in an otherwise stellar week really hurts.
“I think we’ve just got to play a complete game from the beginning, come out, move our feet, be physical, just bring that work ethic,” said Matt Martin, who finished another solid effort by the fourth line with a third-period goal against reliever Eddie Lack.
Martin saw a positive: Monday will come quickly, with an afternoon home game against the Red Wings. “You can’t sit and dwell on one game in an 82-game season,” he said. “It’s a long year and obviously know we’ll need to be better. We’ll practice and watch game tape and we’ll get back at it.”