This was fought tooth-and-nail, as most Islanders games will be this season. The hope for new coach Barry Trotz is that his team won’t keep making so many costly mistakes.
The Islanders dropped their home-opener, a 4-3 defeat to the Predators on Saturday night at Barclays Center.
The Isles had their chances, and in the end, this team with very little expectations pushed the reigning Presidents Trophy winners. But they couldn’t stop Nashville from completing a two-game sweep of New York.
The Islanders (1-1-0) had opened the season in Carolina on Thursday, winning a 2-1 game in overtime, led by reigning Calder Trophy winner Mat Barzal, who drew a penalty late in regulation and then scored the winner in the extra frame. Meanwhile, the Predators (2-0-0) had beaten the Rangers, 3-2, in the Garden for their season-opener on Thursday.
By the time the third period started, Nashville had managed a 4-3 lead. The Islanders tried to push the pace, but Nashville shut it down and never let the equalizer come.
What had been made clear through the first two periods — as well as the first game of the season — was that the Islanders were going to be a far more structured team than in years past. But one thing that had not changed yet was their penchant for poor puck management and rampant turnovers, making defending very difficult.
It started early, when Viktor Arvidsson scored his first of two goals, just burning Ryan Pulock on a one-on-one and then beating goalie Thomas Greiss through the legs for a 1-0 lead just 3:42 in. Greiss had played great in Carolina, making 45 saves, but was relatively shaky early in this one.
The Islanders tied it at 12:01 of the first when Josh Bailey stole it from P.K. Subban behind the Nashville net and then fed Barzal for a jam-shot that snuck underneath backup goalie Juuse Saros — and had to go for an official review before it was called a goal.
Greiss then gave up a bad one to Mattias Ekholm, letting an easy wrister from the top of the left circle get under his glove to give the Predators a 2-1 lead. The Isles tied it up again just 2:46 into the second period, when Valtteri Filppula got his second goal in as a many games with the Islanders on a tip-in.
But then Craig Smith was left wide open in the slot and he beat Greiss at 13:30 to give Nashville a 3-2 lead, followed just over three minutes later with Arvidsson’s second of the night, an easy one when Bailey turned his back and screened Greiss on a short wrist shot.
The Islanders still managed to give themselves some life, as newly minted Islanders captain Anders Lee did what he does best, scored from tight quarters in front, notching a power-play goal with 28.8 seconds remaining in the period to take just a one-goal deficit into the final 20 minutes of regulation.