So this is what it looks like to lose for a month straight.
A crowd built back up from the dead, then utterly deflated. Patrick Kane waiting and waiting, then finally scoring past Semyon Varlamov. Anthony Beauvillier failing to answer and getting stonewalled by Marc-Andre Fleury. Barry Trotz staring up at the scoreboard in disbelief. The Islanders walking to their locker room, heads down. Again.
The Blackhawks had just beaten them, 3-2, on Sunday night in a shootout, extending the Islanders’ losing streak to 11 in a row, including three straight overtime losses. That’s three straight games with a point, but two weeks into playing at UBS Arena, the Isles still don’t have a win at the new building. They’ll wake up Monday morning with a full month having passed since their last victory, on Nov. 6 at Winnipeg.
The Islanders have scored just 13 goals. They have given up 40. They have plummeted into dead last in the Metropolitan Division, their playoff chances fading like chalk washed off pavement. Coming into the season, this team was widely picked to win the division and even contend for a Stanley Cup. Now, the Isles are 5-10-5, closer to winning the draft lottery than a playoff spot.
When Noah Dobson’s goal with 2.3 seconds to go in regulation tied the game at 2-2, it seemed like the UBS Arena roof could come off. When the Blackhawks took the victory in a shootout, you could only hear the silence.
The Islanders carried the remnants of momentum into Sunday’s game after picking up a point in two straight overtime losses. That all got erased by the halfway mark of the first period, when Brandon Hagel tipped Alex DeBrincat’s one-timer past Varlamov to give Chicago an early lead.
Like so many other games in this losing streak, the Islanders didn’t lack for chances. In the first period alone, Kyle Palmieri had a clean look seconds into the game, another one after Kieffer Bellows found him after retrieving a loose puck and a third on a one-timer from the low slot. None went in. For Palmieri, who now has just one goal in 20 games this season, this is now an unfortunate routine.
The Islanders tied it up at one with a power-play goal — their third in two games — at 8:03 in the second, with Jean-Gabriel Pageau lighting the lamp for the first time since Nov. 4 after tipping in a Sebastian Aho shot. For the rest of that period, there was something resembling momentum.
Early in the third period, it evaporated. The Islanders failed to mark Dylan Strome as the Blackhawks entered their offensive zone. When the puck came off Aho’s stick, it landed right on Strome’s, and he buried it past Sorokin to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead.
At the 20-game mark — the de facto quarter mark of the season — the Islanders are slipping further and further away from competitiveness.
With all but Casey Cizikas returning from the COVID-19 list this past week following two postponements, this stretch of three games was a key chance to make up points. The Islanders came away from it with three points and no wins.
That’s not what they had in mind.
But then again, neither was anything about the way this season has gone.