Islanders head coach Lane Lambert, left, talks to his team...

Islanders head coach Lane Lambert, left, talks to his team during a timeout in the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, in Elmont, N.Y. Credit: AP/Mary Altaffer

OTTAWA  —  No defense.

Currently, that has a twofold meaning for the plummeting Islanders, who will try to snap a season-worst five-game losing streak when they conclude a two-game road trip against the Senators on Wednesday night.

Firstly, the Islanders’ defensive structure absolutely collapsed over the last two periods of Monday’ night’s 5-2 loss to the Maple Leafs, who scored three times on breakaways with a fourth breakaway leading to an unsuccessful penalty shot. That pushed the Islanders’ goals allowed total to an unseemly 21 over the last five games, including back-to-back games of giving up five goals.

Secondly, the Islanders (23-21-5) are at a loss to adequately explain their leaky play.

“We’ve talked about the fact that breaking the puck out of the zone [has struggled] but I thought we were a little better with that tonight,” coach Lane Lambert said after Monday’s loss. “The problem was is that we let people get in behind us. [The Maple Leafs] are a fast team. They’re a rush team. They’re a second-period team that way. We knew that going into that period and we didn’t manage it.”

The Islanders' skid out of a playoff position extended to 1-6-3 with Monday’s loss. They’ve been outscored 34-17 in that 10-game spiral, meaning they’ve been bad both defensively and offensively.

But defense has always been the bedrock of a team run by president/general manager Lou Lamoriello, be it the Devils, Maple Leafs or Islanders. That’s what Lamoriello and Barry Trotz instilled when taking over the franchise in 2018, which led to three straight playoff appearances, including back-to-back trips to the NHL semifinals in 2020 and 2021.

Things started to fall apart with last season’s playoff miss, but Lamoriello gambled that was a result of COVID-19 and its impact on the schedule. He made few roster changes but did fire Trotz and promoted Lambert from associate coach.

Lambert’s main tweak to Trotz’s system was to be more aggressive on the attack, with the defensemen asked to push up in the offensive zone with more regularity.

Lately, all it’s done is left All-Star goalie Ilya Sorokin with little defensive support.

“They had speed going through the middle,” defenseman Adam Pelech said of the Maple Leafs. “We had to stay in the middle of the ice, cheat back to our net and not let anyone behind us. Unfortunately, we kind of left Sorokin out to dry there.”

Pelech returned to the lineup on Monday after missing 21 games with a head injury and the Islanders went 7-9-5 without him. Not surprisingly, there was some rust to Pelech’s game at both ends of the ice. But the top-pair defenseman’s return will ultimately bolster the Islanders’ defensive game.

“Hopefully, Wednesday,” Pelech said when asked how quickly it will take him to return to 100%.

The Islanders were also without defenseman Noah Dobson against the Maple Leafs as he is day-to-day with an unspecified issue. That led to Samuel Bolduc making his NHL debut.

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