So this is what it looks like to lose for a month straight.
Patrick Kane waiting and waiting, then finally scoring past Semyon Varlamov. Anthony Beauvillier failing to answer and getting stonewalled by Marc-Andre Fleury. Islanders coach Barry Trotz staring up at the scoreboard in disbelief. A crowd built back up from the dead, then utterly deflated. The Islanders walking to their locker room, heads down. Again.
The Blackhawks had just beaten them, 3-2, on Sunday night in a shootout, extending the Islanders’ losing streak to 11 in a row, including three straight overtime losses. That’s three straight games with a point, but two weeks into playing at UBS Arena, the Isles still don’t have a win at the new building. They’ll wake up Monday morning with a full month having passed since their last victory, on Nov. 6 at Winnipeg.
The Islanders have scored just 13 goals. They have given up 40. They have plummeted into dead last in the Metropolitan Division, their playoff chances fading like chalk washed off pavement. Coming into the season, this team was widely picked to win the division and even contend for a Stanley Cup. Now, it is 5-10-5, closer to winning the draft lottery than a playoff spot.
“The only thing I didn’t like in the game is really the result,” Trotz said afterwards.
When Noah Dobson’s goal with 2.3 seconds to go in regulation tied the game at two, it seemed like the UBS Arena roof could come off. When the Blackhawks took the victory in a shootout, you could only hear the silence.
The Islanders did play well, forcing Fleury into 22 saves, looking good on the power play and relying on Varlamov to stop 24 shots. But in lieu of a victory, they were left to talk about building blocks for the third straight game — with none of them going in the win column.
“I thought we’ve been doing some good things in the last three games,” Jean-Gabriel Pageau said. “Obviously we want that extra point, but we’re building right now and I think our game’s going in the right direction.”
Josh Bailey, asked what he would say to the fan base, added: “It’s our job to find a way to right this. Like I touched on before, we’ve got a character group in there who’s not gonna quit.”
The Islanders carried the remnants of momentum into Sunday after having picked up a point in two straight overtime losses. That all got erased by the halfway mark of the first period, when Brandon Hagel tipped Alex DeBrincat’s one-timer past Varlamov to give Chicago an early lead.
The Islanders tied it up at one with a power-play goal — their third in two games — at 8:03 of the second, with Pageau lighting the lamp for the first time since Nov. 4 after tipping in a Sebastian Aho shot.
Early in the third period, the momentum evaporated. The Islanders failed to mark Dylan Strome as the Blackhawks entered their offensive zone. When the puck came off Aho’s stick, it landed right on Strome’s, and he buried it past Varlamov to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead.
“It’s a pop play,” Trotz said. “That one is a little more preventable.”
From there, the game seesawed back and forth until another win fell out of the Islanders’ grasp. Now, at the 20-game mark — the de facto quarter mark of the season — the Isles are slipping further and further away from competitiveness.
With all but Casey Cizikas returning from the COVID-19 list this past week following two postponements, this stretch of three games was a key chance to make up points. The Islanders came away from it with three points and no wins.
“I look at the last three games, we’ve got a point in every game and we’re playing hockey now,” Trotz said. “We’re playing a lot of areas the right way. We’re playing with a little more confidence and the group understands.
“We would love to win, get our first win in the building here for our fans, for us. For our confidence.”