OTTAWA – The frustration continues to mount for the Ottawa Senators along with their losses.
The Senators added to both Thursday night with a 3-1 defeat to the lowly New York Islanders at Scotiabank Place. The Islanders came into the game in last place among the NHL’s 30 teams, but received power-play goals from Kyle Okposo and Trent Hunter on their way to stopping a three-game winless slide at Ottawa’s expense.
The Senators were booed off the ice by their 19,061 fans, who were as unhappy with the performance as the players were after Ottawa was outskated and outworked for the better part of 60 minutes.
“We talked before the game about getting our forecheck going and putting pressure on their D, and they did that to us,” said captain Daniel Alfredsson, who in practice Wednesday smashed his stick against the glass out of frustration and wound up breaking a whole pane.
Thursday’s outing did nothing to ease the tension.
“Overall, it’s not a good game for us. The Islanders are a team we should beat,” he said. “It’s very frustrating when you’re chasing the puck.”
The Senators (6-8-2) have now lost three straight games after winning four of five and fell to just 3-5-1 at home.
“We need to wake up,” coach Craig Hartsburg said. “Right from the start, we did not have any level of competitiveness that would allow us to win the hockey game.”
After Filip Kuba opened the scoring for the Senators with a power-play goal less than two minutes in, the Islanders (5-9-2) responded through Okposo and Hunter, who notched the go-ahead goal late in the second.
Bill Guerin added some insurance in the third and Joey MacDonald provided a solid 29-save performance in the opening game of a home-and-home series between the teams. They’ll meet again Saturday on Long Island.
Rookie Josh Bailey, in his second NHL game, recorded his first career point with an assist on Okposo’s goal in the very building in which he was drafted by the Islanders in June.
“It could have happened anywhere, but here makes it pretty special,” the native of Oshawa, Ont., said. “The draft was here and with my family being here in Canada, it’s a pretty cool thing.”
Alex Auld finished with 28 saves for Ottawa, which was playing without Jarkko Ruutu after the left-winger received a two-game suspension for his hit to the head of Montreal’s Maxim Lapierre in a loss to the Canadiens on Tuesday.
In his place, Ryan Shannon, acquired in a September trade from the Vancouver Canucks, was called up Wednesday from Binghamton of the AHL.
Shannon, one of the AHL team’s leading scorers, was immediately assigned to its No. 1 line alongside centre Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley, but he left the game late after being knocked woozy by an elbow from Thomas Pock after attempting to side-step a hit from the Islanders’ defenceman.
Pock received a five-minute major and game misconduct.
The play prompted Hartsburg to suggest a suspension was in store considering Ruutu was banned for his hit that only received a two-minute minor from the referees at the time.
“(Ruutu) got two minutes for what was basically a shoulder,” Hartsburg said in comparing the two incidents. “I’m not sure how many games that’s going to be worth.”
The status of Shannon was not immediately known, but Pock was apologetic afterward.
“I didn’t mean to hit him like that,” said Pock, who knows Shannon from playing against him in the U.S. college ranks and said the two spoke before the game. “I’ve got to give him a call later.
“It was a bad play. That’s all I can say about it. I hope he’s all right.”
Meanwhile, the Senators continued to struggle offensively Thursday and have scored just twice in the past three games.
Kuba’s goal – his first for Ottawa since joining the team in an off-season trade from the Tampa Bay Lightning – at the 1:53 mark of the opening period came on their first shot of the contest.
However, it would be more than 11 minutes – at 13:34 of the first – before they’d register another shot and one at even strength.
“It’s frustrating for us right now. We go out at times and we look great,” Senators defenceman Chris Phillips said. “We just haven’t been able to do that consistently, which was the case tonight.”
The Islanders tied it with a power-play goal of their own when Bailey picked up a rebound and fed Okposo in the slot to score into an open net and Ottawa wound up being outshot 16-5 through the first.
Their hard work paid off when Hunter lifted Kuba’s stick to get to a loose puck on Auld’s doorstep to make it 2-1 in the second and Guerin added to the lead on a pass from Doug Weight that appeared to bounce off the stick of Senators centre Mike Fisher and in.
“For us, it’s pretty simple: if you skate, you are going to put teams on their heels and we did that,” Islanders coach Scott Gordon said. “Right after (Kuba’s) goal, we went back at it like nothing had changed.”
Notes: The Senators came into the game with a 36-11-11-1 record all-time against the Islanders, including 18-6-5-0 on home ice. … Defenceman Luke Richardson was a healthy scratch for Ottawa. … Former Senator Mike Comrie, who’s listed as day-to-day with a hip injury, sat out his second straight game for the Islanders.