Evgeni Nabokov had a message for himself and the rest of the Islanders in the wake of Wednesday’s 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Pittsburgh:
We’ve got to make it harder on these guys.
“It’s got to hurt to play,” the veteran netminder told Newsday. “It was too easy.”
The Isles were outgunned early and often in their first postseason appearance since 2007.
Beau Bennett scored just 3:30 into the contest — on the power play — and Nabokov lasted less than two minutes into the second period before he was hooked, finishing with four goals allowed on 15 shots.
Afterward, he said the Isles simply didn’t challenge the Pens enough.
“We have to make it hard on them on every inch of the ice,” he explained. “It’s the only way we can win.”
The Isles won’t be happy with their overall performance, but perhaps most concerned about Nabokov’s play.
Arguably their second most valuable player during the regular season next to leading scorer John Tavares, the 37-year-old Russian was overaggressive and out of position on Jarome Iginla’s first-period shot — which led to Pascal Dupuis’ marker at 13:23.
(Nabokov also appeared shaken after taking an Iginla shot to the mask.)
He then proceeded to allow two goals in a 32-second stretch during the second frame that wiped out any chance of an Isles comeback.
Backup Kevin Poulin was inserted and made his postseason debut, but didn’t look much better. He allowed a bad-angle goal to Tanner Glass and simply isn’t a viable option should Nabokov continue to struggle.