UNIONDALE, NY— First intermission treated Islanders fans to a glimpse of a
mini remote controlled blimp getting wedged in the rafters near the Nassau Coliseum press box.
Consider it symbolism for the arena’s home team as the Islanders are desperately looking to find the right direction. The Islanders failed to generate much offense against a goalie making his NHL debut in a 3-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night.
Justin Peters made 34 saves with his family looking on. Only Frans Nielsen’s short-handed goal prevented the shutout as the Islanders saw its season-high losing streak extended to seven games. Coach Scott Gordon saw his team fail to score more than two goals for the eighth straight game, completing a 1-7 stretch in which the team has scored 11 total goals.
“I can go through the whole game and list plenty of chances,” Gordon said. “It’s obviously frustrating.”
The two-week Olympic break can’t come soon enough for the Islanders. But four games remain before the respite, including Tuesday’s home
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matchup with Nashville followed by a road game against the defending Stanley Cup-champion Pittsburgh Penguins the following night.
Jussi Jokinen continued his career-best season, notching goal No. 20 to open the scoring off a deflection 14:32 in. Jokinen, who posted a 20-goal season for the first time in his five-year career, took advantage of a loose puck after DiPietro deflected a centering pass right to the open winger.
The Islanders power play woes continued. After failing to score on a 28-second 5-on-3 chance, Matt Moulson’s right-post shot appeared to jar the puck past Peters and into the open net with the single-man advantage. The officials waved off the goal, blowing the whistle before Moulson’s scoring attempt sent the puck over the goal line.
Nielsen got the tying goal at the 9:25 mark of the second period, capitalizing on Blake Comeau’s penalty kill work. Comeau forced a turnover behind Carolina’s net before passing it to Nielsen for his eighth goal.
Patrick Dwyer responded with a goal near the left post almost five minutes later for the go-ahead score. Joni Pitkanen, who assisted on Jokinen’s goal, added the insurance marker with one minute left as DiPietro tried to skate to the bench for the extra attacker.
A winless four-game road trip preceded a meeting with a Carolina squad that entered with the Eastern Conference’s fewest points. The Islanders have not won since Jan. 21 despite out-shooting the Hurricanes, 35-25.
“You shouldn’t have to play a perfect game to win,” Gordon said. “That’s the way it’s feeling right now.”
Peters, recalled from the AHL when starter Cam Ward sustained an upper body injury earlier in the week, blanked Comeau on a breakaway just two minutes into the final period. The netminder’s sliding pad save stopped Comeau’s attempt and Carolina killed off two power plays in the third to split a four-game road trip with wins over Buffalo and the Islanders on back-to-back days.
DiPietro said a young Islanders (23-27-8) team has the maturity to end a losing streak before it falls out of contention for the eighth and final playoff spot. Just 24 regular season games remain.
“These are the slides you try to avoid but we have a strong group in here mentally and we have to keep pushing and keep getting better,” DiPietro said. “I think it’s human nature for anyone to press when you get in a situation like this. There’s some added pressure but you have to fight through.”
A struggling Islanders power play unit produced seven shots but no goals in five chances. The team is now 1-for-24 on the power play in the last six games.