Islanders blow another two-goal lead to lose to Ducks

Frans Nielsen of the Islanders skates to the

Frans Nielsen of the Islanders skates to the bench after Kyle Palmieri of the Anaheim Ducks scored a third-period goal at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale. (Dec. 21, 2013) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

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These games and points handed away by the Islanders in the third period this season have come in all shapes and sizes.

They've had the last-second malfunction, against the Lightning earlier this week. They've done the brain-cramp thing, allowing a tying shorthanded goal to the Caps last month. They've been beaten by the best, when Sidney Crosby did in the Isles three weeks ago.

Saturday night brought another unsightly meltdown at the Coliseum, another blown two-goal lead in the final 20 minutes. This one, which ended 5-3 for the NHL-leading Anaheim Ducks, featured a few new wrinkles -- blown officiating calls, plus two fast goals from lost faceoffs for the tying and winning goals in the latter half of the third period.

That makes 10 blown third-period leads in 37 games for the Islanders, including five blown two-goal leads. They are 0-2-3 in those games they led by two, which have been different in the details but consistent in one aspect: This team is not mentally strong late in games.

"Our third periods have been absolutely horrendous," said John Tavares, who was held without a point for the second straight game. "Whether the calls go against you or not, you still have to find a way to get the job done."

The Islanders did not. After Thomas Vanek scored twice -- including a pretty solo rush and big slap shot past Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen late in the second -- and Frans Nielsen scored off the rush, the Isles brought a 3-1 lead into the third period.

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But they gave one back, quickly, on Ryan Getzlaf's second of the night off a slow-moving scramble 1:10 into the third. And after a badly missed call -- Josh Bailey got knocked down by Francois Beauchemin outside the Ducks' blue line, resulting in no penalty and an unjust icing -- Mathieu Perreault beat Nielsen on the draw, then outworked Nielsen to bury a rebound with 9:28 to go to tie it.

After another questionable icing -- and a missed high-stick on Kyle Okposo -- Getzlaf beat Nielsen on a draw and Smithtown-born Kyle Palmieri muscled past Andrew MacDonald, tapped the puck through Brian Strait's legs and backhanded the winner by Evgeni Nabokov with 6:16 remaining.

Getzlaf scored into an empty net to complete his hat trick and seal the Ducks' victory.

"I think we focus on the wrong things, icings that weren't icings, and we lose our focus," Vanek said. "We take our frustrations out [on the officials] and we turn around and get more penalties. We just need to shut up and play."

There were a few missed opportunities, as Tavares' line had a handful of odd-man rushes with the Isles holding a 3-2 lead and Bailey pinged a rebound off the crossbar.

Somehow the emotion of Friday's win over the Rangers -- in which the Isles lost an early two-goal lead but rallied to beat an equally fragile team -- got lost as the horn sounded to start the final period.

"We could have made simple plays, but we iced the puck instead," Jack Capuano said after his team's 20th regulation loss. "We did the job for 40 minutes, but we didn't move the puck the way we should have in the third. That's a problem."

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