Islanders lament near-misses in loss to Kings

The Islanders are not going to win games with their offense.

That’s not who they are. It’s not who they want to be. Head coach Barry Trotz offered that reminder following his team’s 3-2 loss Thursday night to the Kings.

“We’re not going to be a high-generating team for the most part,” Trotz said. “Our game is a structured, defending game.”

Anders Lee agreed with his coach.

“Our MO, we’re not scoring five goals a night,” Lee said. “That’s not our team, it never has been.”

But even the Islanders can’t get by with this level of offense.

After this latest loss, in which they saved some face by scoring twice in the final minutes, the Islanders uniformly noted that they hit the post twice. They said they held the Kings without much offense, too, and that their lack of chances was indicative of game flow as much as anything.

“We’re looking to make things happen out there,” Lee said. “Tonight was a night it didn’t go in. If we put a couple in, that post [from Adam Pelech] goes down and in, the other pipe that we had from Robin [Salo]that goes down and in, we’re talking about how great [it is] our defensemen scored tonight.”

Adam Pelech takes a shot during the first period.
Robert Sabo

That would be fine, if Thursday weren’t indicative of a larger trend. But the Islanders came into the night having scored just 2.37 goals per game, below every NHL team other than the Coyotes and Canadiens.

They didn’t score much last season, either, but they did score nearly half a goal per game more than they are now. Over a full season, that can add up.

“We can shoot the puck more,” Trotz said. “Our net presence has been good. I think our D have jumped in, in this game [Pelech] was in the lock, [hit] the post. Salo jumped in, [Noah Dobson’s] jump-in. Eventually Ryan Pulock will join the group, he does that on a little more natural basis.

“That’s part of our game, but at the right time. We just don’t go up and down and make wild pushes and jump up at times that we shouldn’t. We just gotta manage the game.”

Asked whether he was happy with the offense, Trotz said: “I was until tonight.”

While it’s true the Islanders had strung together a few wins in which they scored four goals, those were against the Flyers and Coyotes. Against the tough, stingy Kings, they fell flat.

Anders Lee attempts to keep the puck during the first period.
Robert Sabo

“We keep the puck out of the net and we win 3-2 hockey games, 2-1 hockey games and that’s been our team for a while now,” Lee said. “You’re not gonna see a lot of breakout hockey of five, six, seven goals.”

The Islanders, though, don’t need five or more goals. They’re 13-2-2 when they score at least three.

But all too often, that has been too much to ask.

Ryan Pulock participated in the morning skate, but there’s still no timetable set for his return from a lower-body injury. Originally, Pulock was supposed to miss four to six weeks, but he has blown past that and has now been out for more than two months.

“That’s really a question for the player,” Trotz said. “The one thing that we do is, it’s really the player’s decision and he’ll know. He’ll know how comfortable he feels, where his conditioning is. I will have an observation but really it’s gonna end up being a player’s decision, saying I feel like I’m ready to go, and then it’s in my court. I’m not there yet.”

Kings defenseman Drew Doughty played his 1,000th career game. … Austin Czarnik was placed on injured reserve, retroactive to Jan. 22, with an upper body injury. … Mark Shewchyk was the only linesman working the game. According to ESPN, linesman Travis Gawrylezt tested positive for COVID-19.

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