|Islanders look to regain form vs. Flyers|
When March began, the New York Islanders were alone in first place in the Metropolitan Division with a slight lead over the Washington Capitals. Since then, things are not going well, especially in the last two games.
After shutout losses to Boston and Montreal, the Islanders hope to start ending a stretch of inconsistent performances Saturday afternoon when they visit the Philadelphia Flyers.
New York (42-25-7, 91 points) began this month with a two-point lead over Washington but quickly lost its grip on sole possession of the division. The month began with a 3-1 loss to Washington and it began a 5-6-0 stretch that has seen the Islanders lose by three or more goals four times.
Two of those instances were a 4-1 loss and a 5-2 defeat on home ice March 3 and March 9 to Philadelphia. The other two were Thursday's 4-0 loss in Montreal that was preceded by a 5-0 home loss to Boston two days earlier.
"The last six periods, we've been badly outplayed," New York defenseman Thomas Hickey said. "I think we all have to find a little bit more juice."
Thursday's loss kept the Islanders three points behind. It is possible they could begin Saturday four or five points out if Washington gets an overtime loss or a win over the Minnesota Wild.
The Islanders gave up three goals in the second period Thursday and allowed two in the middle period Tuesday. During the last 10 games, the Islanders are getting outscored 16-5 and allowed five second-period goals to the Flyers in the two meetings on Long Island.
"We can't fall asleep at this time of the year," Islander center Casey Cizikas said. "It's unacceptable. This time, it's not ideal but eight games, you can do a lot in eight games. You can definitely turn the tide and find the momentum and build to where we were at."
The Islanders were 0-for-3 on the power play Thursday and are 1-for-25 on the man advantage this month and 1-for-31 in their last 13 games since Feb. 21.
Besides the power play woes, several players besides leading goal scorer Anders Lee (27 goals) are struggling to score.
Mathew Barzal leads the Islanders with 58 points but has not scored a goal in 16 games since Feb. 16, Josh Bailey is second on the team in points has not scored in 12 games since Feb. 26. Jordan Eberle totaled 59 points in his first season as an Islander but has 31 this season and has one goal in his last 20 contests.
Before this rough patch and being held to two goals or fewer seven times, New York vaulted into first place by going 22-7-3 from Dec. 17-Feb. 28.
Now besides being concerned with falling too far behind the Capitals, the Islanders are six points ahead of Montreal, which occupies the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Islanders are also tied with Pittsburgh for points and four points ahead of Carolina.
Philadelphia (36-30-8, 80 points) is among the teams trying to get one of the wild card spots and sits five points behind Montreal.
Since the last meeting with the Islanders, the Flyers are 3-3. They are 12-7-2 since winning eight straight from Jan. 14-Feb. 4.
The Flyers are 5-5-1 in their last 11 home games and return to Philadelphia after getting a 3-1 win at Chicago on Thursday when James van Riemsdyk scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period and rookie Carter Hart made 40 saves.
Van Riemsdyk and Hart are among the reasons the Flyers remain alive in the playoff race. Van Riemsdyk has 11 goals in his last 13 games and 20 in his last 31 while Hart has allowed three goals on 117 shots in his last three games.
"It's crunch time right now, but we're just coming to the rink every day and just worrying about our group and everything that's going on in here," Hart said. "All that excess noise, we can't control any of that. We can't control how other teams are playing or any of that."
The visiting team has won each meeting this season. Before getting outscored 9-3 three weeks ago on Long Island, the Islanders rolled to a 6-1 win in Philadelphia on Oct. 27 when Brock Nelson scored twice.
--Field Level Media