Boston–On Thursday night, the New York Islanders did something teams across the NHL can only hope to do: go into TD Garden and hang around with the Boston Bruins, keeping the game tight through the first 40 minutes and change.
However, as the Bruins eventually pulled away, a 5-2 loss reminded the Islanders how much a lack of resolve keeps them firmly separated from the league’s upper echelon.
“Right now, we’ve got to find a way to get ourselves back in,” Islanders head coach Lane Lambert said. “There’s too many times with these costly moments, we’re not up to the task. We are, right now, having trouble for whatever reason sustaining a 60-minute game, and we’ve got to find a way to do that.”
The costly moment on Thursday came quickly after one where it seemed the Islanders had dug themselves back into the game.
Simon Holmstrom scored his second shorthanded goal of the season with an assist from Jean-Gabriel Pageau, drawing the score at two, only for David Pastrnak to answer back on the power play moments later.
“They have a lot of different options and different plays,” Pageau said. “When you have one less guy, and they can find the extra guy that’s open, they’re going bury it.”
When Charlie Coyle pushed the score to 4-2 with his second goal of the evening, it was clear the Islanders had once again dug themselves a hole and forgot to bring a ladder down with them.
Coyle finished the game by capturing his career hat trick, with the Islanders’ second line defending against two of them.
That line, though, was missing a key component as Pierre Engvall was surprisingly made a healthy scratch against Boston.
“I can’t tell you why,” Lambert said when asked why Engvall wasn’t in the lineup. “Pierre and I had a conversation, and we’ll just leave it at that.”
In Engvall’s absence, the Islanders second line looked far from the dynamic force it’s become since his arrival last season, with Anders Lee sliding in next to Brock Nelson and Kyle Palmieri.
“I don’t think our line had as bad of a night as maybe the scoresheet shows,” Nelson said. “They capitalized on a couple of plays. Offensively, I thought we were maybe one or two plays away from doing the same.”
The line registered a combined four shots on goal and let up two goals to the Bruins.
The first of which came in the first when the Islanders inexplicably left Trent Frederic wide open in the slot long enough for him to snipe a shot past Ilya Sorokin’s blocker.
Sorokin helped the Islanders stay in the game, stopping 29 of 33 shots, but couldn’t out-duel his fellow Vezina-caliber counterpart, Linus Ullmark.
Boston took a 1-0 lead in the first period when they inexplicably left Trent Frederic wide open in the slot long enough for him to snipe a shot past Ilya Sorokin’s blocker.
Although Frederic’s impact directly led to Boston’s first goal, it also indirectly did the same for the Islanders.
After he was given a minor for cross-checking, Frederic sat in the penalty box and watched Nelson tie the game by batting a puck out of the air off a rebound from Noah Dobson’s point shot.
The goal was Nelson’s sixth of the season and helped Dobson maintain his point-per-game pace.
Dobson’s efficiency had become a regular occurrence for the Islanders this year, but simultaneously, so too has the losing.
The loss to Boston was the Islanders’ third straight and fourth in the last five games.
Their record now sits at 5-4-3 heading into a matchup with the Washington Capitals on Saturday back home at UBS Arena.
Notebook: Defenseman Adam Pelech was out of the lineup for the Islanders against Boston and was officially listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury…Forward Bo Horvat returned to the Islanders’ lineup after missing a game. He was a -1 with two shots on goal in 18:22 of ice time against Boston.