To hear Lane Lambert, the Islanders committed a “sin” by blowing a three-goal third period lead to the worst team in the NHL Tuesday night.
Not 24 hours later, the coach granted his team absolution.
“You [have] to be very, very careful with the negativity outweighing the positives and there [are] a lot of positives,” Lambert said Wednesday afternoon after the Islanders held an optional practice at Northwell Health Ice Center.
The Islanders congregated at their practice facility to scrutinize what happened in their 5-4 overtime loss to the Sharks.
To briefly summarize, the Islanders had a 4-1 advantage until Kevin Labanc scored with 8:55 remaining and Tomas Hertl scored twice in a span of 1:41 to force overtime. And when William Eklund fired the game winner with 4.3 seconds left in overtime, the collapse was complete.
The loss to the Sharks was the 10th time in 24 games that the Islanders have blown a third period lead.
“That’s been the story [a] lot of times this year,” Bo Horvat said. “We’ve been the better team for 40, 45 minutes, 50 minutes of the game and it’s just the last little bit where we have to figure out how to close it [out].”
That Horvat believes this iteration of the Islanders need to figure out how to put games away in the third period is concerning since much of the roster is comprised of members of the teams that reached the NHL’s final four in 2019-2020 and 2020-21 by being able to manage leads late in games against aggressive opponents.
“That was always one of our strong suits,” Scott Mayfield said. “When we went into the third with a lead, we kind of knew in here that it was going to get closed out so we [have] to get back to that.
“For me, it’s a confidence thing. We’re in between the second and third [periods] and every guy in this room [should know] that we’re going to go out there, be aggressive, play hard, and [opponents are not] going to get many chances. That’s what we have to get back to.”
What, then, are the positives Lambert believes need to be stressed?
The points the team has been accumulating.
Entering Thursday night’s match against the Blue Jackets at UBS Arena, the Islanders (10-7-7) have earned 14 out of a possible 20 points in nine of their last 10 games.
As a result, they hold the second Wild Card slot in the Eastern Conference, and trail Carolina by two points for second place in the Metropolitan Division.
“We’ve done so many positive things,” Lambert said. “We [have to] clean up an area which clearly needs and we will. There’s a lot of positives to build on.”
According to data culled by the hockey analytics website morehockeystats.com, the Islanders are averaging 1.125 points per game. Over an 82-game season that puts them on pace for 92.25 points.
For the sake of comparison, the Islanders finished the 2022-23 season with 93 points and earned the first Wild Card slot in the Eastern Conference.
“You can’t let a handful of games dictate the rest of the way because guys have done it time in and time out,” Mike Reilly said. “...I’m sure the tide is going to roll here and kind of change the other way.”