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The Islanders have been the team on the other side of Sunday’s game before.
The one going into a late-season game knowing they have a postseason berth locked up, while their opponents are playing out the string, trying to find silver linings.
“I don’t think the confidence has been chipped at,” Matt Martin said following the 5-2 loss to Carolina. “Obviously, we’re disappointed, and we had higher expectations for ourselves than what we represented this season. We know it’s been disappointing. We gotta wear that.”
Martin, with three games to go in a season in which things have been doomed from the start, was ready to ruminate a bit on the bigger picture for the Islanders. He still believes the group in their locker room is capable of big things.
But where the Islanders found themselves finding ways to win games over the previous two seasons, they’ve found ways to do the opposite this season.
Take Sunday as an example. The Islanders came out with some jump, but went down a goal after a mindless turnover by Noah Dobson that sapped their momentum. Later, after Max Domi put the Hurricanes up 3-2 in the third, the Isles failed to generate any serious chances on a power play.
“It’s such a fine line, winning and losing in this league,” Martin said. “We just gotta get back to finding ways to pull those games out.”
As for the difference between then and now?
“In this league, you’re not gonna have your best every single night, but you need to still pull out wins, and win hockey games,” Martin said. “I don’t think we did that enough this season, where when we didn’t have our best game, we didn’t just keep it simple, find a way. We kinda got away from what we do best. That’s when the games kinda got ugly.”
“We just gotta get back to what we do best as individuals, as lines. And then as a team, it’ll all come together.”
In the here and now, though, the Islanders were left to try to pull out the good from their fifth straight loss, and try to explain afterwards what it is they’re trying to get from the final days of a regular season they’d like to forget.
“You still prepare with a lot of detail, just as you ask the players to do,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “Some teams are getting excited for the playoffs. We’re not. We’re being very professional.”
Anthony Beauvillier (upper body) and Jean-Gabriel Pageau (COVID-19) each missed their third consecutive game.
The Islanders held a pregame moment of silence for Canadiens legend Guy LaFleur, who died Friday.
Casey Cizikas recorded his 200th career point with a secondary assist on Ross Johnston’s goal.