Need to know: Inconsistent Islanders

If there is one thing that separates the good teams from the mediocre and the great ones from the good, it's consistency of effort. Poor teams invariably see wild swings in effort and results, sometimes within a few days. Monday was a perfect illustration of that. How do the New York Islanders look so good -- dare we say almost playoff-ready? -- in handling New Jersey 5-1 on Saturday night, then turn around and lay a complete egg in a 7-0 shellacking at home Monday afternoon by Philadelphia? Embarrassing. Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov (is there no Plan B on the island in terms of goaltending?) gave up three in the second and three in the third, and from reports out of the game, he might have been the Isles' best player. It was just the third road win for the Flyers, one of the reasons they're outside the Eastern Conference playoff bubble.

Not a good day in Colorado for the on-ice officials, who blew an offside call that led to a Colorado goal, nor for Nashville backup Chris Mason, who has been solid this season but allowed six goals on 18 shots in less than two periods of play as the Predators were nipped 6-5. The game was the first for the Avalanche after blowing a 4-1 lead in Edmonton Saturday night, a game in which they gave up an Oilers-record 56 shots. Things looked like they might follow a similar pattern Monday as the Preds kept eating into Avalanche's leads, launching 38 shots on Semyon Varlamov, but the Avs held on. On the disputed goal by the suddenly red-hot Matt Duchene, officials mistakenly believed the Predators had played the puck back into their zone, allowing Duchene -- who was offside -- to go in alone and score.

Kudos to the Ottawa Senators and coach Paul MacLean for being able to turn attention away from the loss of Erik Karlsson for the balance of the season. With Ben Bishop giving Craig Anderson a break in net, Bishop matched the peerless Martin Brodeur save for save as the Senators ended up with a 2-1 victory in a shootout Monday afternoon. Jakob Silfverberg scored the only goal of the shootout. Bishop stopped 30 of 31 shots, while Brodeur stopped 29 of 30.

Speaking of the Northeast, it's become a very interesting place to be this season. The Toronto Maple Leafs won their sixth in seven games with their 3-0 victory Monday over the hapless Florida Panthers. Meanwhile, Montreal was taking care of business against a much-improved Carolina Hurricanes team, defeating the Southeast Division leaders 3-0 for its fourth straight win. With starting goalie Carey Price feeling under the weather, Canadiens coach Michel Therrien went back to Peter Budaj for a second straight time (Budaj beat Philadelphia Saturday). The point totals are a bit misleading because Boston has played two or three fewer games than the rest of the division, but as of Tuesday morning, Montreal assumed the top spot in the Northeast, with Boston, Ottawa and Toronto all among the top eight in the Eastern Conference, as well.

The Anaheim Ducks are doing in the Pacific Division what the Chicago Blackhawks are doing in the Central: threatening to run away and hide. The surprising Ducks won again Monday, edging Columbus 3-2 to improve to 12-2-1. The win was the Ducks’ fifth straight, and their plus-14 goal differential is tied for second in the league behind the Blackhawks. The Ducks lead Phoenix by seven points with a game in hand, as the second-place Coyotes (8-6-2) continued to put their slow start to the season behind them with a 4-0 whitewashing of Calgary on Monday. The Coyotes have won four of five but are proving how hard it is to make up ground in the division. As for the Blackhawks (12-0-3), they have a shot at tying an NHL record for the best start without a regulation loss when Vancouver visits Tuesday night. The record for starting without a regulation loss was set by the 2006-07 Ducks, who went on to win the Cup after starting the season 12-0-4.