Staple, with Newsday since 1997, has covered high school sports, hockey and football.
VANCOUVER - One of the senior members of the Islanders was walking out of Nassau Coliseum after the team lost a 3-1 lead in the third period in a 5-3 loss to the Panthers a week ago and shook his head as he walked by.
"Never seen anything like it," he said, referring to the Islanders' inability to hold third-period leads, especially those of the two-goal variety.
Little did that unnamed player know that it would get worse this week in Canada. The Islanders are in a spotlight of sorts -- not the good kind of light either. Friday's 4-3 loss in Calgary, which featured another lost two-goal lead and another third-period lead given away, marked the fourth straight game the Isles had taken a lead into the third and ended up tied at some point, or worse.
The season-long mess the Islanders have made of third periods, having allowed a league-high 77 goals in the third while scoring only 52, has been magnified by all the times the Islanders have failed with a lead.
They have taken a lead into the third period 20 times in their 66 games; their 9-6-5 record in those games gives them a .450 winning percentage. No team in the last 15 seasons has had a sub-.500 record when leading after two periods.
By contrast, the Islanders took a lead into the third period 19 times in the 48 games last season. They were 16-2-1 (.842) in those games.
"There's nothing the coaches can say. There's nothing we can really say anymore," Thomas Hickey said after Friday's loss in Calgary, which was followed by a brief closed-door meeting among the players. "You have to take ownership of these games and play like they're all that matters to you."
Players have been asked about nerves creeping in when opponents get within a goal in the third, they've been asked about systemic breakdowns. "If we had the answers . . . " Frans Nielsen said, trailing off with a somber look.
Some have wondered why Jack Capuano doesn't use his timeout when things start to go south. The NHL is not the NBA, where teams get multiple timeouts to stop momentum. One 30-second timeout is usually needed to rest players after an icing or draw up a play late.
With 16 games left in the season and the playoffs only a mathematical possibility and not a realistic one, loss of leads is one area the Islanders can fix.
"It's not like we have anything to lose at this point," Nielsen said.
Other offers for Vanek
A TSN radio report that Garth Snow had a couple of other, better offers for Thomas Vanek but refused to take on a salary was clarified a bit in the days after the trade deadline. According to people familiar with some of Snow's negotiations, the Islanders would have had to accept a player with money and term left on his deal in order to move Vanek.
It's believed one of those offers was from the Wild, which sent two second-round picks (2014 and 2016) and depth forward Torrey Mitchell to the Sabres for Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick. That was likely the same offer made to Snow for Vanek. Mitchell, 29, has one goal and eight assists and is under contract at $2.5 million for 2014-15.
The Islanders were looking for a prospect rather than a salary dump from another team. So Snow took the Canadiens' offer of a conditional second-round pick and 20-year-old Swedish wing Sebastian Collberg.