And why wouldn't the Islanders figure that no matter what, they were going to lose again to the Eastern Conference champions?
Maybe this team with a healthy mix of youngsters and proven veterans is different. After all, they steadied themselves in overtime and then rallied in the shootout to squeeze out a 3-2 win over the Senators on Wednesday night.
"It's a big two points," Islanders captain Bill Guerin said. "They're the top team in the league right now. If we play our game we can play with everybody. And not just play with everybody, we can win."
Mike Sillinger scored the go-ahead goal in the third period and added the winner in the shootout to help the Islanders snap an eight-game losing streak against the Senators.
New York led 2-1 after the teams traded goals early in the third, but the Senators appeared set to continue their dominance when defenseman Andrej Meszaros scored his second of the game with 1:55 left in regulation.
Rick DiPietro sealed New York's first shootout win of the season when he gloved Dean McAmmond's drive in the sixth round of the tiebreaker. The Islanders got even at 1 in the shootout when Guerin scored on their last regulation attempt, after Daniel Alfredsson scored on Ottawa's first shot.
Sillinger beat Ray Emery with a snap shot to begin the final round of shooters. That was enough for New York, which hadn't beaten the Senators since Jan. 19, 2004. The Islanders were swept by Ottawa in eight games over two seasons since the NHL lockout.
"That's just stuff that's in the past," said Sillinger, in his second season with the Islanders. "They've been a good team for a long time, let's face it."
DiPietro, in his 17th straight start, stopped 35 shots for New York, 5-30-8-0, against Ottawa since Feb. 12, 1996. The Islanders (13-8-1) haven't scored more than two regular goals in their last 10 games, but are 5-4-1 -- nine in one-goal decisions.
"He gives us a chance to win every game," Sillinger said. "You kind of forget about him because you expect it every night. He's the reason why we have 13 wins. He's given us 10."
After racing to a 15-2 mark, the Senators have hit the skids. Ottawa has dropped four straight and is 1-3-2 in its last six.
"We showed some better things than we have in some of our other recent games," forward Antoine Vermette said. "We created chances. We're moving forward in a good way."
Each team had a power play in overtime, and the Senators had the best scoring chance. DiPietro got caught getting back after he raced toward a loose puck in the right circle. A shot from defenseman Joe Corvo hit Islanders forward Richard Park and headed for the open net. DiPietro covered the puck in the crease as he slid into the goal.
"Oh man, I hate that," Sillinger said. "He did give us a scare. I was thinking, 'What the hell is he doing?"
Meszaros tied it at 2 when his shot from the right point hit Park and caromed in.
Josef Vasicek, who scored six goals in 63 games last season, netted his ninth with the Islanders to make it 1-0 late in the first.
Meszaros tied it with a power-play goal 1:05 into the third, but Sillinger put the Islanders back in front 3:53 later.
"They played pretty defensively after they got the first goal, which is what we expected," said Alfredsson, who returned after missing one game with a groin injury. "We're happy to be able to tie it up and get a point."
Emery made just his fifth start of the season, finishing with 20 saves. After a stellar performance during the Senators' run to the Stanley Cup finals last spring, Emery missed the first six games this season as he recovered from a wrist injury.
Emery has lost four straight decisions, including a relief stint for Martin Gerber on Saturday when he allowed only one goal in a 4-3 home defeat to Philadelphia.
Things looked good for Ottawa when Meszaros scored from a sharp angle from the right of DiPietro during a power play that carried over from the second period.
The Senators went on the advantage again and appeared to take the lead, but a goal by former Islanders forward Randy Robitaille was waved off because Vermette was in the crease at 2:51.
"I got cross-checked by [Andy] Sutton, then I felt I got pushed into the net," Vermette said. "It felt like I was stuck there. I couldn't move at all."
New York grabbed a 1-0 lead with a rare first-period goal, scored by Vasicek with 25.4 seconds left. The Islanders have scored only 11 times this season in 22 opening frames and hadn't netted one in six games.
Ottawa hadn't lost four straight since dropping five consecutive from Oct. 28-Nov. 8, 2006. ... Senators LW Dany Heatley had his four-game goal streak snapped. ... New York is 11-1 against East playoff teams from last season.