Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin reacts as the New Jersey Devils...

Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin reacts as the New Jersey Devils celebrate a goal by right wing Alexander Holtz in the second period of an NHL hockey game at UBS Arena on Sunday, March 24, 2024. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The definition of inconsistency is the inability to replicate performances. Some of that may be physical. But the Islanders know it’s also about a lack of mental sharpness.

They proved that again in a crippling 4-0 loss to the Devils — who scored three times in the second period and got a strong outing from a struggling goalie — on Sunday at UBS Arena.

It came a little more than 24 hours after a save-it-in-a-bottle, dominant showing in a 6-3 win over the visiting Jets as the Islanders fell to 0-6-3 in the second game of back-to-back sets.

“I didn’t feel like we had the same jump,” Brock Nelson said. “The same energy.”

And it could cost the Islanders captain Anders Lee if the NHL opts to suspend him for his five-minute kneeing major to Nico Hischier at 16:48 of the second period. Lee was ejected after the hit.

“Pretty clear I didn’t like the hit,” said Timo Meier, who fought Lee as a shaken-up Hischier exited to the Devils’ room, though the New Jersey captain returned for the third period. “It’s a dirty hit. So I stepped in and let him know.”

The Islanders did not make Lee available for comment.

The Islanders (30-26-15), who went 0-for-5 on the power play, fell four points behind the Capitals for the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot and have played one extra game. They also are six points behind the Flyers for third place in the Metropolitan Division with one game in hand.

“Sometimes you’re not going to have your best legs, but that’s a moment where you have to be sharp mentally,” defenseman Ryan Pulock said of the Islanders’ dismal back-to-back record. “I think it’s mindset. Everyone’s in good enough shape to play back-to-back days. We played at 1 o’clock [Saturday]. We had time.”

“It’s a good question,” coach Patrick Roy said when asked why his team has lacked mental sharpness. “I feel like it’s been like this for a while. We always have some moments where, mentally, we’re making mistakes or bad coverage. It hurts us at the wrong time.”

For instance, Jack Hughes’ goal to make it 2-0 at 2:57 of the second period came on a three-on-one rush after defenseman Noah Dobson collided with Kyle Palmieri and Bo Horvat in the Devils’ zone, wiping all three out.

“Not sure if it was a little confusion,” Palmieri said. “It’s never a great situation when you have three guys running into each other. They scored on it, so that can’t happen.”

Ilya Sorokin, who stopped 26 shots, was not at his best, though the Islanders often left him facing odd-man opportunities.

Devils goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen, who entered the game with a bloated 3.81 goals-against average and a subpar .894 save percentage, made 36 saves for his fourth career shutout and first since Nov. 29, 2022.

“That wasn’t a good game for us,” Palmieri said. “I don’t think we challenged their defense enough, their goalie.”

The Islanders could not capitalize on back-to-back power plays in the first period and the Devils bridged the end of the first period and the start of the second with back-to-back five-on-three advantages. Horvat was called for holding the stick at 17:48, Cal Clutterbuck was penalized for cross-checking at 19:10 and Casey Cizikas went off for hooking at 19:56.

Meier got to the right post for a five-on-three power-play goal 38 seconds into the second period. The Devils went ahead 3-0 at 6:12 as Lee could not come up with the puck in a battle along the right wall with Simon Nemec and the defenseman found Alexander Holtz open in the opposite circle.

Chris Tierney added an empty-netter at 15:53 of the third period.

“We’re in our building,” Roy said. “We need to play better than this. We all know that. Our fans deserve better than what we’ve been showing.”

Notes & quotes: The Islanders heard “Let’s Go Devils” chants in the third period . . . Simon Holmstrom drew back in for Matt Martin after being a healthy scratch on Saturday, just his second missed game of the season . . . A potential Islanders power-play goal at 10:44 of the third period was immediately waved off as Palmieri clearly smacked the puck in with his hand . . . Defensemen Samuel Bolduc and Sebastian Aho and forward Oliver Wahlstrom were the other healthy scratches.

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