The New York Islanders don’t plan on making the same mistakes twice.
Fresh off an embarrassing 3-2 overtime loss to league-worst Pittsburgh on Sunday, the Islanders will try to bounce back and prolong the Penguins’ misery at Mellon Arena when the teams conclude their home-and-home set.
Locked in a tight race with Montreal for seventh place in the Eastern Conference playoff chase, the Islanders blew an opportunity to gain ground on the Canadiens on Sunday, falling to a Penguins team which had won just one of its previous 20 games (1-18-0-1).
“We just thought we would show up and we’d win,” Islanders defenseman Adrian Aucoin said. “We weren’t skating, we weren’t finishing our checks. It really wasn’t what (Pittsburgh) was doing, but it was more of what we didn’t do.”
“It’s not good enough,” forward Jason Blake said. “I don’t think we came out with enough urgency, for the most part.”
The Islanders still trail Montreal by four points for seventh in the East with 17 games remaining. Montreal defeated New Jersey 2-1 on Monday. New York is nine points ahead of Buffalo and Florida.
The Penguins hope to channel the momentum generated from a 2-1 road trip into their first win at Mellon Arena since Dec. 29. New York started Pittsburgh’s home slide with a 6-1 win on New Year’s Eve.
Pittsburgh, which has dropped a league-record 14 straight at home, also hasn’t won in regulation since a victory at Philadelphia on Jan. 12.
“We had a wicked travel schedule the last few days,” Penguins coach Ed Olczyk said of Sunday’s win. “But they were playing their third game in less than four full days, so those circumstances offset each other.”
“Give them credit,” the Islanders’ Blake said. “Every time they play us, they work extremely hard.”
STANDINGS (through Feb. 29): Islanders - 72 points, 3rd place, 12 PB, Atlantic Division. Penguins - 35 points, 5th place, 49 PB, Atlantic Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Islanders - Mariusz Czerkawski, 23 goals; Kvasha, 30 assists; Trent Hunter, 45 points; Eric Cairns, 166 PIM. Penguins - Malone, 20 goals; Dick Tarnstrom, 25 assists and 36 points; Kelly Buchberger, 109 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Feb. 29): Islanders - Power play: 16.7 percent (43 for 257), 11th (tied) in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.9 percent (242 for 285), 8th (tied). Penguins - Power play: 15.0 percent (44 for 294), 22nd. Penalty killing: 76.4 percent (226 for 296), 30th.
SEASON SERIES: Islanders, 3-0-1-1.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Islanders - 9-14-6-2 on the road; Penguins - 7-21-3-0 at home.