For all the positives the Islanders had on their six-game road trip, with four wins in the first five games, the sixth game here Saturday night felt as if it erased every good thing that had happened.
The Islanders coughed up two leads, including a one-goal edge entering the third period, and dropped a 6-4 decision to the Flyers. The blown lead was bad enough. That it came against a Metropolitan Division opponent made it even worse, particularly as three other teams ahead of the Islanders gained two points Saturday.
"If you asked us before the road trip, yeah, we'd take the [4-2-0] record," Jack Capuano said. "But these divisional games, the last game of the trip, you want some success. We stopped doing the things we needed to in the third period."
Holding a 4-3 lead after a wild 40 minutes, the Islanders appeared to try to calm things down in the third. But they calmed it down too much. They got sleepy with their forecheck and let the Flyers dictate the play as the hosts methodically gained the tie, the go-ahead goal and the clincher in the final 12:46. Meanwhile, the Islanders mustered only two shots on goal in the third.
Jakub Voracek tied it at 7:14 after a failed clearing attempt by the Islanders, who had their top line of Thomas Vanek, John Tavares and Kyle Okposo on the ice. Rookie defensemen Calvin de Haan and Matt Donovan were out there, too, and Voracek found a wide-open spot at the left circle to rifle home Claude Giroux's pass.
Giroux set up Michael Raffl for the go-ahead goal at 15:45 off what looked to be a harmless two-on-two rush. Donovan blocked Giroux's initial shot, but Donovan, de Haan and goaltender Kevin Poulin all made moves to the loose puck. Giroux got to it first and flicked a pass back to Raffl, who scored into a yawning net with Poulin out of position.
Poulin had been terrific at times on this road trip but struggled Saturday night. He gave up a soft goal to Andrej Meszaros at 14:43 of the first after the Islanders took a 2-0 lead on goals by Tavares and Cal Clutterbuck. Meszaros tied it at 18:38, and the Flyers took the lead on Adam Hall's deflection 3:45 into the second.
But the Islanders, who played well from behind all along their road stops, did so again in the second. Even after Tavares had a scramble goal waved off at 7:57 because Vanek was lying in the crease -- "I lost my cool there a bit," said Tavares, who appeared to bump a linesman as he went to argue with the referees -- the Islanders continued to press.
Brock Nelson tipped home de Haan's shot to tie at 11:05 and Brian Strait scored through Nelson's screen at 14:00 to chase Steve Mason from the Flyers' net.
"We played pretty well for two periods," Tavares said. "But we were a totally different team in the third. Why change our game when we're having some success?"
It's a question that will haunt the Islanders, just as some of the other games they've let slip away will haunt them. They are only 7-4-3 when leading after two periods and now are 6-2-4 when letting a two-goal lead slip.
As they sit in last place in the Metro, 10 points behind the Flyers and Rangers and seven points out of the last playoff spot, those lost leads and points are magnified.
"This one is pretty frustrating," Andrew MacDonald said. "These mistakes and [blown leads] keep recurring and we know we can't let them keep happening."