ANAHEIM, Calif. — The New York Islanders’ three-game road trip through California hit an early speed bump Wednesday night at Honda Center.
Anaheim goaltender John Gibson, making his fourth consecutive start to open the season, stopped 39 shots as the Ducks defeated the Islanders 3-2 in front of 14,553 fans.
New York failed on all five of its power-play opportunities — with Gibson making 13 saves. The Islanders are now 0-for-15 on the power play in 2017-18.
“We did some great things, but we have to get some pucks in and find a way,” New York coach Doug Weight said. “These are games we should win.”
Not with Gibson playing up to his 2016 All-Star form.
The 6-foot-3, 223-pound Gibson was 22 when he earned All-Star status, making him the youngest U.S.-born goalie to play in the NHL’s annual showcase since Buffalo’s Tom Barrasso (19) in 1985.
The Islanders outshot the Ducks 21-6 over the first period, but headed into the locker room tied. Left winger Andrew Cogliano scored 37 seconds in to give Anaheim a 1-0 lead.
“Probably the best period of the year,” Weight said.
But Weight’s team had nothing to show for its effort. And Rickard Rakell compounded the frustration by deflecting Cam Fowler’s shot past New York goaltender Jaroslav Halek, giving Anaheim a 2-1 lead at 8:39 of the second period.
Center Brock Nelson scored both goals for the Islanders, including one with 12:03 remaining to give his team hope of avoiding a second straight loss. Visiting St.Louis edged New York 3-2 in a shootout Oct. 9.
Nelson was left lamenting numerous missed chances over the first 20 minutes against Anaheim (2-1-1).
“We weren’t able to regather the same momentum we had in the first (period),” the Warroad, Minnesota, native said. “It’s frustrating, but there were some good things and some good looks.”
Right winger Joshua Ho-Sang, who assisted on Nelson’s two goals, was more blunt.
“It’s tough when you’re climbing out of a hole the whole game. … You can’t be down early,” Ho-Sang said.
The Islanders (1-2-1) must now face the Sharks in San Jose on Oct. 14 and the Kings in Los Angeles one night later.
High-scoring winger Patrick Eaves made a splash in his season debut, recording his first goal — the game winner — off a one-timer at 5:32 of the third period. Eaves, 33, was sidelined after suffering a lower-body injury during the Ducks’ second-round playoff series against Edmonton in April.
“We got the win. … We found a way after not a great start,” Eaves said. “(Gibson) played great, especially in the first (period). I thought it was a good night. We played a good hockey team — and we got two points. We’ll take it.”
Eaves was traded from Dallas to Anaheim last season and signed a three-year, $9.4 million contract extension to remain with the Ducks in June.
The Ducks, winners of the past five Pacific Division titles, were closing out a four-game homestand. They picked up five of a possible eight points before hitting the road to face Colorado tomorrow night.
The Islanders missed the playoffs last season, despite a 41-29-8 record and 94 points. Life in the league’s toughest division — the Metropolitan — can be harsh. Weight and his players know this.
And it makes a loss like this sting just a little more.
“It shouldn’t be hard. We had a good game. We had 40-some shots,” Weight said. “We have to find a way to score on the power play. We just have to find a way to score. I think we’ve had 96 shots in two games, so we’ve got to find a way to put the puck in the net.”
Gibson made it hard. Now the Islanders are facing the possibility of a four-game losing streak heading into their showdown against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 19.
“I think, obviously, Gibby is the one who won us the game tonight,” Cogliano said. “He was the difference obviously tonight.”
The Ducks were opportunistic. The Islanders were not. And two points were left on the ice in Anaheim. Two points that were there for the taking.