The New York Islanders played well for the better part of Monday’s game, but another poor first period cost them in the 2-1 loss.
I talked on Sunday about the need for the New York Islanders to start games on time, especially against competition like the Pittsburgh Penguins. That isn’t what happened on Monday night at PPG Paints Arena, as the Islanders no-showed their first period with the Penguins, and again surrendered two opening frame goals. Eventually losing 2-1 to close out the season series.
Here are three takeaways from a much better performance than Saturday’s, but still not one to necessarily be proud of.
1. First Period Mistakes Cost Islanders Again
As I said, we went over the Islanders struggles in Saturday’s first period, and in the majority of other recent first periods, in Sunday’s three takeaways. The Islanders have now allowed the first goal of a game in six of their last seven outings.
I’ve already pointed out why that’s a problem, besides the obvious reason that you’re now playing from behind, it also gets back to the Islanders defense-first style. Their system is not built for chasing games from behind. The Islanders are a team who are best when jumping out to a multi-goal lead early and coasting the rest of the way through regulation.
Monday’s opening frame was decidedly worse than Saturday’s by pretty much every metric. While Saturday saw some costly errors ruin what was otherwise a fairly decent period, Monday’s entire first 20 was a mess from an Islanders perspective.
Take Anthony Angello’s goal to open the scoring four and a half minutes in. The Penguins only found themselves on the power-play because Ross Johnston immediately took a penalty on his first shift back in action since January. Then, while on the PK, Scott Mayfield chases Penguins defenseman John Marino behind the Islanders net.
Marino leaves a pass at the doorstep for Angello, who punches it home, and the Penguins are up 1-0 already off of two costly errors only a few minutes into regulation.
Later, with a minute and a half left in the period, the Islanders were caught in another bad line change, the same scenario as in last game’s second goal. It again led to a goal in this game, as the Penguins Jared McCann got behind his defender in front of the net and redirected a puck home for a 2-0 lead.
Whatever is happening on these momentary lapses in focus, it needs to be changed in a hurry. The Islanders are now 5-4-0 without captain Anders Lee in the lineup and have lost possession of second place in the division thanks to a sloppy two-game set in Pittsburgh.
I love Barry Trotz, but it’s the coach’s job to get these slow starts sorted, especially when twice in consecutive games a bad line change has resulted in a goal. I don’t doubt Trotz’s ability to do so, but to this point, we just haven’t seen any improvements from the Islanders over the last few games, and the playoff race has heated up in a big way thanks to Pittsburgh’s outstanding month of March.