The Metropolitan Division-leading New York Islanders thought they had corrected the problems that resulted in the NHL’s worst penalty kill before those woes cropped up again.
The lowly Arizona Coyotes surprisingly feature one of the league’s best power-play units, though it is currently enduring a drought.
Special teams figure to play a major role as the Islanders look to avoid a third straight loss Tuesday night and send the visiting Coyotes to their seventh straight defeat.
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New York (39-20-2) is last on the penalty kill at 74.1 percent. The unit had killed off 14 straight penalties during a six-game stretch before allowing Vancouver to go 2 for 3 in Sunday’s 4-0 home defeat.
Compounding those woes was a power play that went 0 for 5.
"At the end of the day, we gotta do a better job on special teams," coach Jack Capuano said. "Because as you move forward here and in the playoffs, that’s what it’s going to come down to."
Capuano refused to blame rookie winger Kael Mouillierat, who committed two penalties that led to the first two Canucks goals in his second career game.
Captain John Tavares amassed 11 points in a six-game run that ended Sunday.
"I think mentally we were not as sharp and a little sluggish mentally," Tavares said. "Clearly special teams hurt us again."
The stakes are high for New York, which leads the New York Rangers by two points and Pittsburgh by three in the division, and both teams have games in hand. The Islanders also trail Montreal by one point for the Eastern Conference lead.
"It’s a tight one but we’ve got to worry about ourselves in here and when we do that, good things will happen," defenseman Johnny Boychuk said.
Arizona (20-33-7) can match its season-worst, seven-game slide (0-5-2) from Jan. 10-27. The Coyotes haven’t dropped seven straight in regulation since a franchise record-tying 10-game slide Feb. 6-25, 1994.
Coach Dave Tippett’s club has been outscored 23-8 in this skid, going 1 for 12 on the power play. Arizona is fifth in the league with the man advantage at 21.6 percent.
The Coyotes fell 3-0 at New Jersey on Monday, though Tippett was pleased with his defense after allowing 18 goals over the previous four games.
"We did a much better job of that tonight," Tippett said. "I thought our gaps were pretty tight, we were working to push pucks out of own zone."
Arizona is without winger Mikkel Boedker, second on the club with 14 goals. The Coyotes’ next highest-scoring forward is Shane Doan, who has 12 – but none in this losing streak – while Sam Gagner (10 goals) has come up empty in five straight.
The Islanders are unclear of the status of Frans Nielsen, who injured his left leg Sunday. He’s fourth on the team with 36 points.
Jaroslav Halak will likely try again to post a franchise-record 33rd victory. He is currently tied for the single-season mark with Billy Smith, Chris Osgood and Rick DiPietro.
Halak made 19 saves in a 1-0 win at Arizona on Nov. 8 in which Nielsen scored.
New York is 6-1-0 when it has rested the night before and the opponent is on the second half of a back-to-back.