NEW YORK (AP) — The Islanders are stumbling hard at the wrong time of the season for a team with eyes on a postseason berth.
Alex Galchenyuk completed his hat trick shortly after Paul Byron and Noah Juulsen scored 1:43 apart in the third period, lifting the Montreal Canadiens over New York 6-3 on Friday night.
New York dropped to 29-29-7 with its fifth straight loss. Tanner Fritz, Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson scored, and Jaroslav Halak made 19 saves.
“Our record is ugly the past couple weeks,” Thomas Hickey said. “You just have to win. It’s that time of year. We’ve been given all the X’s and O’s and everything. We have to win. We have to find a way to win. Simple.”
The Islanders entered the game trailing Columbus by four points for the final Eastern Conference wild card. However, New York has lost 27 of 41 (14-22-5) since Dec. 1.
Galchenyuk scored his third goal into an empty net with 49 seconds left and also had an assist. Brendan Gallagher also scored for Montreal, which improved to 24-29-10 with its second straight win.
“We’re happy to find a way to win,” Galchenyuk said. “We’ve been playing better the last couple of weeks.”
Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty left the game in the third period with a lower-body injury. Montreal coach Claude Julien said Pacioretty would travel with the team during the rest of its six-game trip and would be “re-evaluated as we go along. We were just being cautious in the third period.”
Montreal’s Charlie Lindgren stopped 32 shots.
Montreal added to New York’s woes when Byron and Juulsen scored to give Montreal a home-and-home series sweep — the Canadiens beat New York 3-1 on Wednesday in Montreal.
Byron made it 4-3 with his 16th of the season at 8:10. Juulsen, a rookie, then scored his first NHL goal on a slap shot off of a feed from Artturi Lehkonen.
Gallagher opened the scoring with his team-leading 22nd goal 1:28 in by deflecting Galchenyuk’s shot from the blue line.
The lead held until Fritz scored his second of the season with six seconds remaining in the period.
Galchenyuk snapped the tie with his 13th of the season 2:17 into the second with the teams playing 4 on 4. Galchenyuk found the rebound when David Schlemko’s shot ricocheted off the post.
Bailey tied it 2:06 later with his 16th of the season.
Montreal took its third lead of the game on Galchenyuk’s second of the period at 11:31, but Nelson’s power-play goal with 3.3 seconds left sent the teams into the intermission tied at 3.
“After the middle of the second it didn’t feel like a playoff atmosphere,” Islanders coach Doug Weight said. “We weren’t physical like we’ve been. Yeah, there’s things we can do, but we have to play better. We’re not playing well.”
NOTES: MSG Network reporter Stan Fischler announced he would retire at the end of the season. … Bailey played in his 700th NHL game, all with the Islanders. … RW Jordan Eberle missed the game with soreness from Thursday’s practice. New York also did not have C Casey Cizikas, who was awaiting the birth of his first child.
Canadiens: At Boston on Saturday night.
Islanders: At Pittsburgh on Saturday night.
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