OTTAWA, Ontario — It was a disappointing return to Ottawa for Jean-Gabriel Pageau on Thursday, as the Islanders lost a fifth straight game, and their grip on a playoff spot weakened with a 4-3 loss to the Senators.
Pageau, an Ottawa native obtained from the Senators in a trade-deadline deal for draft picks, received a pregame video tribute from his former employer and an emotional salute from the home fans, but that was as good as it got for the 27-year-old forward and his new teammates.
“We need all the points right now and we need to find our game as fast as we can,” Pageau said. “The appreciation from the fans, my ex-teammates on the bench was really touching. There was a lot going through my mind and I was trying to stay focused on the game.
“Obviously, I can thank everyone now and turn the page and focus on the rest of the season here.”
With the loss, the Isles’ lead over the Rangers for the second Eastern Conference wild-card berth shrunk to two points with a game in hand heading into Saturday afternoon’s home matchup against Carolina.
“It’s really disappointing,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “I don’t want to take nothing away from the Senators, they … capitalized on the chances we gave them and we didn’t capitalize enough on ours.”
Craig Anderson made 37 saves for the Senators, who hadn’t beaten the Islanders since Dec. 1, 2017.
Anders Lee, Mathew Barzal and Ryan Pulock scored for the Islanders, who are 0-3-2 in their past five and have been outscored 14-5 in the past three games. Goaltender Semyon Varlamov made 25 saves in defeat.
Connor Brown, Mikkel Boedker, Anthony Duclair and Brady Tkachuk scored for the Senators. Ottawa leads the NHL with 15 short-handed goals after Boedker’s second-period score that tied the game 2-2.
The Islanders opened the scoring on a power play when Lee netted his 20th of the season, going top shelf on Anderson just 3:58 into the game. After Brown scored, the Isles regained the lead 2-1 early in the second, when Jordan Eberle dropped a pass to Barzal, who fired a wrist shot from the slot.
Boedker scored before Duclair gave Ottawa its first lead, beating Pageau for positioning and burning Varlamov with a shot high to the short side at 14:26 of the second.