The New York Islanders lost to the Carolina Hurricanes 5-2 and the tough stretch continues for the team. The Islanders are playing their worst hockey all season and the All-Star break couldn’t come soon enough for this team. The 5-2 loss is their fourth loss in a row and the eighth loss in the last nine games.
The recent loss keeps the Islanders in sixth place in the Metropolitan Division and ninth place in the Eastern Conference. They don’t look like a playoff team and if they can’t turn around their season by the All-Star break, they might be looking at a rebuild. The Islanders were outplayed by the Hurricanes and it was a game that displayed the gap between a playoff team and a team that can’t compete in the conference.
Islanders’ Slow Start Costs Them
The Islanders allowed a goal 44 seconds into the game. The Hurricanes established an offensive zone presence and a shot from the point zipped through traffic and found the back of the net. Three minutes later, the Islanders allowed an odd-man rush and Jesper Fast to find an open shot with goaltender Ilya Sorokin out of position. The Hurricanes had a 2-0 lead four minutes into the game and controlled the game from that point onward.
Granted, the Islanders tied the game to end the first period with two goals of their own. However, they were chasing the game and playing out of rhythm. When the Hurricanes re-took the lead in the second period, the game felt out of reach for a team playing from behind for the second time. The Islanders couldn’t settle into the game and it resulted in another tough defeat.
Islanders Defense Unravels
The Islanders’ defense was awful and let the team down for the fourth consecutive game. Along with allowing five goals, the defense gave up a plethora of scoring chances. Breakdowns and missed assignments in the neutral zone cost the Islanders as they allowed the fast skaters on the Hurricanes to beat them in space and on the rush for multiple goals.
With the five goals allowed, the Islanders have allowed 16 goals in the last four games and 30 goals in the last nine games. The defense was a strength earlier in the season but during the recent skid, the unit has become a liability and is leaving the Islanders on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.
Holmstrom Makes a Statement
A pleasant surprise in the rough loss was Simon Holmstrom finding the back of the net. He carried the puck into the offensive zone and created a shooting lane to find the back of the net with an elevated shot. Holmstrom’s goal provided a spark for the offense and put the Islanders on the board for the first time in the game.
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The goal was Holmstrom’s second of the season. However, the future looks bright for the 21-year-old forward who has proven he can become a reliable skater for the Islanders. His goal against the Hurricanes showed his skating ability and puck control, which will help him become a valuable contributor to the offense this season and for years to come.
Nelson Nets His 17th Goal of the Year
The bright spot for the Islanders was All-Star center Brock Nelson finding the back of the net. Shortly after Holmstrom’s goal, Nelson handled the puck and with a wraparound, snuck the puck past Hurricanes’ goaltender Frederik Andersen to tie the game and end the first period on a high note. The Islanders have waited all season to see him find the back of the net himself and singlehandedly lead the offense, and in the losing effort, he managed to do that for one of the team’s two goals.
Nelson has 17 goals on the season, the most on the team. Moreover, he is starting to find the back of the net again, scoring for the second game in a row after snapping out of his slump in the 3-2 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres. The Islanders’ season is in a downward spiral, but if anyone can help turn things around, it’s Nelson who continues to be the most reliable goal scorer on the team.
Other Takeaways From the Islanders’ Loss
- Hurricanes forward Sebastian Aho had a hat trick and scored two of his goals when Islanders defenseman Sebastian Aho was on the ice.
- The Islanders only scored two goals in the loss and have only scored five goals in the last three games. Along with the defense struggling, the offense has also fallen apart, making the season a disappointment across the board.
What’s Next for the Islanders
The Islanders will head back on the road to face the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are looking to bounce back from a 3-2 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens. Like the Hurricanes, the Maple Leafs are having a great season and with a 28-11-8 record are one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, making them a tough matchup for an Islanders team desperate for a win.
The Islanders’ season is slowly falling apart. They have a 23-20-5 record and each loss makes the battle to remain competitive in the Eastern Conference more difficult. The next few games until the All-Star break will be pivotal for the team to not only rebound but keep their playoff hopes alive.
Mike Fink joined The Hockey Writers in November 2020 and covers the New York Islanders. In addition to covering the Islanders, Fink writes about the NHL at large, looking at general topics from potential cities for NHL relocation to arena traditions throughout the league. Follow Mike on Twitter @Finks_thoughts for more Islanders and general hockey insights.