Special teams sunk the Islanders for the second straight game last night. Their penalty-kill gave up two power-play goals to Ryan Malone in the third period to seal a 4-2 loss to the Lightning at Nassau Coliseum.
Trent Hunter and Nate Thompson had given the Islanders a pair of one-goal leads, but they couldn't hold on. Suddenly the holidays aren't looking so happy for the Isles, who have dropped seven of their last nine. "I'm a big believer in negativity breeding negativity, and we've got a lot of that right now,'' defenseman Andy Sutton said.
With the score tied at 2-2, the Islanders' penalty-kill continued its downward spiral. The unit has given up eight power-play goals in the last three games and 16 in the last 35 chances in the past nine games.
After the Islanders' second delay-of-game penalty, Malone scored to snap the tie. Steven Stamkos' rebound popped right to his stick, and Malone slid it through Dwayne Roloson's legs for a 3-2 Lightning lead at 2:48 in the third. With Sutton in the box for interference, Malone again at 11:39. He simply stuck his stick out to tap in a centering feed from Marty St. Louis.
"It seems like we definitely take the wrong penalties at the wrong time and they find holes in our defense,'' Sutton said.
What is perplexing is that despite their shortcomings on special teams, the Islanders are playing sound hockey at even strength. "We're getting outplayed on special teams, not on five-on-five," Scott Gordon said.
In the first period, Roloson made miraculous back-to-back saves. After getting caught behind the net as the puck took a bad bounce off the end boards, Roloson had to scamper back to make a spectacular stick save on Steve Downie's backhander at 6:55. He immediately spun into a roundhouse-like kick that stopped Todd Fedoruk's follow-up wrist shot and suspended the puck at the goal line for several seconds before defenseman Bruno Gervais cleared it from the crease, a no- goal that was affirmed upon further review.
Hunter scored at 16:47 to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead and their first power-play goal in 20 chances. Gordon, however, was not happy with the power play. "We make too many soft plays,'' he said. "We're not cashing in enough on our power play to make up for our inefficiencies on the penalty kill.''
Stamkos tied it in the second period as he directed the puck past Roloson after a nice give-and-go with St. Louis at 6:20.
Thompson, who missed an empty net Thursday against the Rangers, wristed one past Mike Smith at 16:25 of the second for his first goal of the season to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead.
The Lightning again tied the score when Vinny Lecavalier's laser from the left circle zipped over Roloson's shoulder with 18.6 seconds left in the second.
That led to the third-period backslide for the special teams, one reason the Islanders have failed to pad their record despite having an advantageous eight-out-of-10 stretch at home.
"It's terrible,'' Sutton said. "All these teams are right there with us and we're just letting it slide. This is a time for us to stockpile points and we're letting them fall away."