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Loss to Buffalo Reignites Concerns Over Islanders Struggles as Season Winds Down

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New York Islanders Ryan Pulock (6), center Jean-Gabriel Pageau (44) and defenseman Andy Greene (4) discuss a face off in the offensive zone

If the New York Islanders had been looking to assuage the concerns of anyone that had still been fretting over their three-game losing streak and their 2-4-1 post-trade deadline woes. they didn’t do a very good job of that on Monday night.

The Islanders played a solid opening 20 minutes before falling back into some bad habits and allowing a two-goal lead to disappear and eventually become a 4-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres. Too many defensive lapses and too many turnovers cost the Islanders what should have been a win over a team planning for the offseason and a goaltender that was making his NHL debut.

“We’re definitely disappointed with how we played,” Adam Pelech said. “We’re aware of that. We need to be better tomorrow night and going forward the rest of the regular season heading into playoffs.”

The Islanders had been coming off a pair of crucial wins over the New York Rangers last week, which included a win on Saturday to punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The pair of victories helped right the ship a bit for the Islanders, who had been struggling before that.

In the last half of the season, the Rangers have provided a mark for the Islanders to help turn around rough patches. They did it earlier in April after dropping two straight to Boston and then only being able to find the back of the net once in a win over Philadelphia. The Islanders exploded for six goals against the Rangers before facing the Washington Capitals in three straight games.

As quick as the offense was there, it disappeared equally as fast against Washington.

The New York Islanders could take some solace in the fact that those losses came against teams heading to the playoffs, but Monday’s loss was far from that. The Isles hadn’t dropped a game to Buffalo all year and their record against non-playoff teams this year was exactly where it needed to be.

Prior to Monday, the Islanders were 22-4-2 against the Rangers, New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers and Sabres as NYI Hockey Now columnist Andy Graziano recently pointed out.

“I thought we had two obviously really strong performances against the Rangers. That’s something we should have carried into tonight,” Matt Martin said. “We know the way we need to play to be effective and shut teams down. Especially a team that’s out of the playoff hunt. They’re going to want to play an easier game and we allowed that to happen tonight.

“We have to regroup and be a lot better tomorrow.”

The Islanders played a good first period and that’s something that they will want to continue when they play the second game of the back-to-back set with Buffalo on Tuesday. The Islanders also scored first, which has been an indicator of an eventual win this season.

They’re 22-2-2 when scoring the first goal and Monday was the first time since January 28 that the Islanders lost in regulation after scoring first.

However, the second and third periods shifted to Buffalo’s favor as they outshot New York 31-25 and out-chanced the Isles 17-13. Six of the 17 chances for Buffalo were high danger, according to Natural Stat Trick. The Islander also turned over the puck 11 times during the course of the loss on Monday.

The results of Monday’s game shouldn’t send Islanders Country into a panic — I know easier said than done. The Islanders have clinched their spot in the playoffs and are still fighting for positioning, which is what made the loss disappointing.

The New York Islanders need to find a way to respond after an ugly loss to a team that in actuality they should have handled with ease and used as a springboard to head into the final games of the regular season on a positive note. New York has shown they can do that in the past and with the quick turnaround for the second game with Buffalo Tuesday will be the perfect opportunity to do so.

Games against Buffalo and New Jersey later in the week are ones the Islanders should have, even if Islanders head coach Barry Trotz ops to rest some of his guys. If they play well the rest of the way, Monday will just be a distant memory, but if the issues continue to persist then concerns about the Islanders heading into the playoffs will only continue.

And rightfully so.

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