If Thursday was a ‘prove it’ game for the Islanders, the only thing they proved they’re not around, at all, was where they need to be if they hope to squeeze something out of this season.
The Islanders went into the evening with their lineup almost completely healthy (Ryan Pulock is now the only regular player left injured) and with four wins in their last five games, but then fell back to .500 – and flat on their faces – after a 3-2 loss to the Kings that could take away any lingering idea there’s a run in it.
It’s not early in the season anymore. The Islanders are no longer missing half of their lineup due to COVID-19. They no longer have an excessive number of home games. Still, they look like a thoroughly mediocre hockey team.
A playoff berth might not be in the cards even if they play at a scorching hot pace, but there certainly won’t be a postseason berth ahead if this is how the Islanders play every time a pedigree team comes to UBS Arena. comes.
Like Saturday against the Maple Leafs, the Islanders conceded an unnecessary goal at the end of a period. Like against the Capitals two weeks ago, they struggled to find much offense – Mathew Barzal spent much of this match skating in the Kings’ zone, waiting for something to open up. As in both games, the Islanders lost.
It looked like a window had been opened for them to get back into the game when a stumbling block on Blake Lizotte wiped out a second Kings goal at 14:39 of the second period. But the Islanders failed to get anything on the ensuing power play, and as time went on in the period, the king’s Andreas Athanasiou defeated Semyon Varlamov with a wrist shot from an acute angle down the left backboards, pushing the puck past the glove. was lifted from the keeper. to double Los Angeles’ lead to 2-0 with 5.1 seconds left until the break.
That led to the Islanders being booed off the ice at the second break. In the third period it could in any case not be said that the Islanders lacked opportunities. In the first 10 minutes alone, Kings goalkeeper Cal Petersen denied Jean-Gabriel Pageau of the slot and Cal Clutterbuck of a centering feed on the threshold. Both were class A looks.
Barzal finally got one to go in with 2:04 to go, converting a wrist shot that made the final score look closer. But that was too little, too late.
An empty net from Adrian Kempe with 35.5 seconds to go looked to seal the win for the Kings, but Casey Cizikas scored with 19.3 seconds to go to add some drama to the affair. Still, the Islanders came up short.
The last 40 minutes were better for the Islanders than the first 20, in which the Kings dominated, by a 9-3 margin in shots on goal. Quinton Byfield scored his first career goal on a wrist shot past Varlamov at 5:05 PM of the first period.
Varlamov’s 27 saves belied two goals he would have liked to get back.
The final score reflected the Islanders’ struggle to generate a score as much as anything else. They ended the night with 30 shots on target. Finishing has been their problem all season, and it was the case again on Thursday.
Thirty-six games into the season, the Islanders are back at a .500 draw (15-15-6), their mediocrity reflected in their failure to beat a playoff team. There is still time to get back into it, but less and less of it every day.