Islanders fans began the night by beating John Tavares. He ended it by bending his team to the ice.
After a 3-0 loss to the Maple Leafs, which is now a six-game losing streak for the Isles, they fell to 5-8-2 after a full outing from Toronto at UBS Arena on Sunday night.
Again, problems started on special teams. The Islanders allowed a short-handed goal at the start of the first period, four-on-three, after a disappointing 6-of-6 at Man-Advantage against the Flames one night. Mitch Marner came behind the defense with a Jake Muzin outlet pass and slipped the puck behind Ilya Sorokin, who stopped 37 of 40 shots on the night.
It was the third short-handed goal allowed by the Islanders this season. And after failing to score in Sunday’s three tries, his power play goals were the same in November.
That was the root of the problem, but still things weren’t good in the right. The Leafs moved the puck around the offensive zone at will, getting chance after chance at the wheel and keeping possession for minutes at a time.
The final shot count was 40-20, Toronto. The bad news: team captain Brock Nelson was not on the bench to start the second period and never returned to the game.
Six players in the COVID-19 protocol and another key player for the Islanders missing Ryan Pulak’s injury is nothing short of catastrophic. Without Nelson, he continued to fight offensively.
The Islanders didn’t retain any offensive zone pressure until the end of the second period, when they played a few good minutes of offense after the power play was over. But Joseph Voll, who finished with 20 saves in his second NHL start, was consistent for the Leafs in the net.
That sequence also came with a caveat: it involved a number of mistakes in the continued power play, including the puck leaving the Isles in their defensive zone and Robin Salo’s skate when he returned to the bench.
Not even 90 seconds into the third, Anthony Beauvillier found each other with Voll, who then lost the puck with his stick before getting a shot. A minute later, Toronto scored 2-0 in the Ondrej Case goal with a nifty pass from David Kampf and Nick Ritchie.
It was that kind of night.
Marner added a third Toronto goal at 6:31, redirecting Michael Bunting’s shot at the crease. So much so that the leaves poured salt into the wound.
There are obvious reasons why the islanders are losing. Hitting the COVID-19 for the team at the end of a 13-game road trip, if nothing else, is the worst time they can be heard. But unless the league decides to postpone the matches, the Islanders will have to put down several contributors.
It doesn’t help, of his healthy players, that only Nelson has consistently been able to find the net. Zach Paris has not scored yet this year. Kyle Palmieri has one goal. Also Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
Even if the team is healthy, it is not a winning formula.
And even at the start of this season, the six-game losing streak is a matter of concern. The Islanders – tapped as a preseason for potential cup favorites – ended the weekend with 12 points, 16 points behind the Metropolitan Division last and first place hurricanes.
It’s getting late.