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Islanders’ skid extends to four games after losing 4-1 to Capitals

November 12, 2023, 11:43 PM ET [126 Comments]
Ben Shelley
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The New York Islanders suffered their fourth loss in a row last night, falling 4-1 to the Washington Capitals at home.

Simon Holmstrom was up on the top line with Mathew Barzal and Bo Horvat, while Pierre Engvall returned to the second line, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau centered Anders Lee and Hudson Fasching. Oliver Wahlstrom was then scratched, while Semyon Varlamov got the start.

The Islanders looked pretty good out of the gate, generating some chances off the rush and taking the play to Washington early. However, near the midway mark of the frame, Alex Ovechkin beat Varlamov right off a faceoff, to open the scoring for the Capitals.

However, New York did outshoot Washington 12-7 in what was a pretty solid opening frame, and were rewarded with under a minute to go in the period. Hunter Shepard ended up being caught behind the net and the puck got out front to Alexander Romanov off a turnover, who scored on the open net before Shepard could get back to tie the game through 20 minutes.

The Islanders continued to have some momentum early in the second period, with a power play opportunity early on, before Bo Horvat took a nice pass from Simon Holmstrom for a chance. But despite New York putting together another pretty decent first half of the period and successfully killing off a Capitals’ power play, Washington managed to pull back ahead when Nicolas Aube-Kubel was stopped on a huge save by Varlamov, only for Nic Dowd to bury a rebound.

The tides turned from there a bit, with the Capitals getting a couple good chances to extend the lead, before Aliaksai Protas took a pass from Matthew Phillips, who beat Varlamov five-hole in the final minute of the frame, to make it a 3-1 game.

Lane Lambert tried mixing up lines in the third period and the Islanders did outshoot Washington 16-6, but New York didn't necessarily have a ton of high-danger chances. Alex Ovechkin then buried a late empty netter, to hand the Islanders their fourth straight loss.

The Islanders managed 37 shots, but once again, the team just can’t score, with two goals or less in their last three games.

Scratching Oliver Wahlstrom seemed like an odd move, given he actually looked quite good in the last couple games and worked well alongside Barzal and Horvat (though Simon Holmstrom remains one of the best options available for the top line as well). Lane Lambert continues to really struggle to find a forward lineup that’s worked, with the first and third lines specifically just on a bit of a consistent rotation.

Some of the blame for that has to be placed on Lou Lamoriello, however. Lambert can try to mix and match the lines however he wants, but the Islanders don’t necessarily have a good enough forward group to begin with. Perhaps Wahlstrom or Holmstrom start to make a difference (and Homlstrom in particular has taken a visible step this season) but New York just doesn’t have the firepower within their lineup right now.

Lamoriello hasn’t been shy about acquiring forwards, but it hasn’t been enough. The team has managed to acquire the likes of Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Kyle Palmieri and Bo Horvat, but has also subtracted scoring in the process, with Jordan Eberle leaving in the expansion draft, and the likes of Anders Lee and (previously) Josh Bailey declining. So really, while the additions may be needed, they’re still more or less just offsetting the lost scoring.

New York has also allowed 17 goals across the last four games, and has not necessarily been as dialed in defensively as you’d like to see, but I think this still remains the smaller issue. The Islanders will benefit from a strong defensive system and solid goaltending in more games than not (despite this recent stretch), and if they can’t score anyways, it’s not going to matter a ton.

It’s games like last night – at home, where they’re facing a divisional opponent on the second half of a back-to-back that’s using a goalie with very limited NHL experience – that the Islanders need to find a way to win.

New York will now open a Western Conference road trip tomorrow, in what’s starting to look like a pretty crucial stretch of games for the team.


- Blown leads, reliance on goaltending are issues on Islanders' point streak
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