Another sizable lead after two periods disappeared quickly in the third for the Islanders Tuesday.
A blown officials' call, plus a shot off one of their own defensemen, made the hopes of a single point disappear in the game's final minute.
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The Islanders' 5-3 loss to the Senators at the Coliseum was a cavalcade of third-period ugliness: Mistakes, bad bounces and the badly missed call by all four officials as a 3-3 game wound down, a play that led to the Senators' winner with exactly a minute to go.
Mika Zibanejad batted a puck down with a high stick, and teammate Jakob Silfverberg touched it first; no one saw it, so play continued and Sergei Gonchar's shot banked off Mark Streit and past Evgeni Nabokov for a 4-3 lead. The Senators scored four times in the third, and the Islanders have now allowed a league-high 42 goals in third periods.
"But we put ourselves in that situation," Jack Capuano said after his team blew a multiple-goal lead in shockingly quick fashion early in the third period for a second straight game. "It's disturbing a little bit."
Unlike on Saturday in Florida when the Isles managed to squeak out a 4-3 win after blowing a 3-0 lead, there was no saving Tuesday's crucial game. Strong play from Kyle Okposo and his line helped build a 3-1 lead through 40 minutes, but in a 1:08 span early in the third, it was tied.
Radek Martinek tried a short pass up the middle rather than a safe play off the wall, and Silfverberg deflected a shot past Nabokov to make it 3-2 at 1:07. At 2:15, Gonchar shattered his stick on a shot, but the puck slid to Zack Smith with Nabokov out of position and the game was tied.
Said Okposo, who assisted on the first two goals and had a solid game: "We can't come out and start the third period like that. We have to have some intensity."
They had that through 40 minutes, with a 5-1 power-play advantage and a 20-13 shot edge. Keith Aucoin tied the game 1-1 at 17:53 of the first off a feed from Okposo, and Okposo's shot-fake to set up Josh Bailey 14 seconds into the second gave the Isles the lead.
Lubomir Visnovsky scored on the power play at 11:46 of the second for a two-goal lead, and the Isles had another late power play in the second to widen the lead, but John Tavares and the top power-play unit misfired on good chances. Capuano also called out his top line for their play throughout the game.
"Not very good," the coach said. "We're not getting production out of that line right now."
No matter whom the fingers are pointed at, the Islanders know they have another self-inflicted wound to overcome. They could easily have finished off a Senators team that's not far away in the East standings, grabbing two points to put more heat on the glut of teams inside the top eight.
Now, they've made it that much tougher. The Canadiens and Penguins, the top two teams in the East, come to the Coliseum Thursday and Friday, and the Isles are three points out of eighth rather than a single point and climbing.
"We've had a few of these moments already this season," Colin McDonald said. "We've found ways to overcome some adversity, a lot of it our own fault. I think we know how to respond."