The disappointment surrounding the New York Islanders was palpable after a defeat on Tuesday, but the suddenly struggling club must quickly put that frustration in the past before facing the host Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday night.
New York, which currently holds the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot, lost 5-2 to the Los Angeles Kings to start a three-game California trip.
Making the setback worse for the Islanders was that they held a 1-0 lead after the first period and were in a tie game when a couple of penalties proved costly.
Matt Martin was assessed an unsportsmanlike penalty for throwing the helmet of Kings forward Rasmus Kupari after they took coincidental roughing minors. Then, 30 seconds later, Zach Parise was whistled for kneeing.
The Kings broke open the game with two power-play goals one minute apart before they extended the lead to 4-1 and cruised to victory.
“Very frustrating. There’s no question,” Islanders coach Lane Lambert said. “The game turned in a three-minute stretch.”
The Islanders have dropped two straight after going on a 7-2-1 run and have been outscored 10-3 in the two-game skid.
On the plus side, forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored in his return after missing 12 games due to an upper-body injury. On the negative, the club can ill-afford to allow these struggles to become a lengthy skid.
“We’ve got to look at the good things we did, bring them and outwork our opponent,” Pageau said. “Then I like our chances.”
The Ducks sit 29th overall in the 32-team league and soon will be officially eliminated from playoff contention, but that doesn’t mean they will be easy prey.
Anaheim, which kicked off an eight-game homestand with a 5-4 overtime loss to the Nashville Predators on Sunday, is 5-1-3 in its past nine outings.
“At this point in the season, with where we’re at in the standings, I think it would be really easy to watch a team mail it in, and our guys refuse to do it,” said coach Dallas Eakins, whose squad twice erased two-goal deficits against Nashville. “They’re working, we’re improving. Our team game is improving. We’ve got young players improving. We get down in a game like that against a very desperate team and we’ve still got our foot on the pedal.”
Among the young players Eakins is referring to is rookie forward Mason McTavish. The third overall pick in the 2021 draft is coming off a two-goal game — his second tally was the tying goal with 26 seconds remaining in regulation — and has three goals and eight points in his past seven games.
McTavish is earning the respect of his teammates.
“It’s a hard league. Very few people can just come in and figure it out, and he’s light years ahead of most guys that come in,” forward Troy Terry said. “The growth he’s had since the start in all areas — not just scoring but holding on to pucks down low and using his body to protect it. Defensively he’s always in the right areas. All the little things with him is what stands out the most. You see why he was such a high pick.”
McTavish isn’t the only Ducks player collecting points of late — Trevor Zegras has two goals and four assists in his past six games.