NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Islanders finally got the defensive effort they’ve spent much of the season trying to find.
Then they wasted it.
Their offense deserted them on Saturday in a 3-1 loss to the Predators that extended a pair of streaks the Islanders would very much like to see broken.
First, they have not beaten Nashville in 10 tries dating back to October 2017.
Second, it has been a month on the dot since they last won two straight games.
For that, they have Alexandre Carrier’s game-winner with 7.9 seconds to go to thank.
You’d say they’ve been treading water, but even that would be generous for a team that has gone 5-6-3 and slipped down the standings, losing another two points to the Hurricanes, Flyers and Devils after all three of the teams surrounding them in the Metropolitan Division won Saturday.
If the defensive effort the Islanders turned in Saturday is sustainable, that is a good sign.
But the new-look lines that produced four goals and a comeback win against Toronto on Thursday night did not have much juice here in Nashville.
Both teams kept the other to the outside and limited grade-A chances throughout the game.
Even on their respective power plays, neither side could do much.
Of course, it did not hurt that Juuse Saros and Ilya Sorokin were in the nets, and both star netminders were very much on their game.
It took 52 minutes of scoreless hockey before Jean-Gabriel Pageau finally broke the deadlock in the third period, redirecting Noah Dobson’s shot from the right point past Saros.
But instead of bearing down for the final eight minutes and playing the kind of defense they had all night, the Islanders broke right back down, with Kyle Palmieri taking a tripping penalty of which the Predators promptly took advantage, as Luke Evangelista tied the game at one right before the penalty expired.
And just as the game looked like it was surely headed to overtime, a bouncing shot from Carrier caromed off the stick of Scott Mayfield and into the net — giving the Islanders a heartbreaking loss from which they could not even get a point.
An empty-net goal from Jussi Parssinen added another goal to the tally before the buzzer.
Even in a third period that counted as more wide open, neither team could make the opposing goaltender work all that hard.
In the first 10 minutes of the third, Nashville’s Denis Gurianov twice lifted weak shots into Sorokin’s chest off breakaways.
And Mat Barzal did not even force a save out of Saros after Simon Holmstrom’s cross-crease feed found him at the backdoor, instead skying the puck high.
For what chances there were early in the game, the Islanders had the better of them, winning the shot count and high-danger chance count through 40 minutes. But even those were sparing as free ice was a rarity.
There is some irony that on the night the Islanders faced Barry Trotz’s new team for the first time, they played one of their most Trotz-like games of the season.
For a team whose defense has been severely lacking all year, the performances of Adam Pelech and Scott Mayfield in particular count as positives, with both defensemen turning in their best games since recent returns from injuries.
But 42 games into the season and in the thick of a playoff race, the Islanders are not in the business for silver linings.
And the schedule is not about to let up.
This represented one of the more winnable games of this four-game trip on paper and proved to be so on the ice.
Now the Islanders will need to get a result over a tough back-to-back in Minnesota and Winnipeg to stay above water on their swing through the Central Division.
In the meantime, you can throw this one in the bin of lost opportunities.