A shot from Brayden Point of the Tampa Bay Lightning...

A shot from Brayden Point of the Tampa Bay Lightning gets past Ilya Sorokin for a second-period goal at UBS Arena on Saturday. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Islanders can remain upbeat about their potential and perceived growth in their game while staying optimistic about their playoff chances. That’s an athlete’s nature.

But the proverbial walls are closing in after their second straight defeat. A 4-2 loss to the Lightning at UBS Arena on Saturday afternoon dropped them seven points behind the visitors for the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot and extended their skid to 1-3-2.

“You can grip your stick tight and run your head through the boards, it’s not going to win you a hockey game,” Kyle Palmieri said. “We’ve got to be smart. We’ve all got to pull on the rope in the same direction. Whether it’s urgency, it’s not always about running around like a chicken with its head cut off.”

The fading Islanders (23-20-14) had a desperate push at the end after the Lightning (31-23-5) scored twice within 82 seconds in the first period and made it a three-goal game in the second. The Blues scored three times in a franchise-record 32 seconds in the Islanders’ 4-0 loss in St. Louis on Thursday night.

“You look at the last few games, you don’t get the results,” defenseman Noah Dobson said. “But the guys are going out every night and leaving it out there. We just have to find ways to execute and not have those lapses in games. We just have to put it all together for a full 60 minutes.”

The Islanders are seven points behind the Flyers for third place and the last guaranteed playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division. Dobson was asked if the season is slipping away with 25 games remaining.

“No,” he said. “Not at all. Similar situation to what we were in last year. We need to start winning games and getting points. The group knows that and knows how to get it done, so I’ve got all the confidence in the group to turn the ship around.”

The Islanders qualified for the playoffs last season in their final game.

The Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy made 32 saves. Anders Lee spoiled his shutout bid at 13:44 of the third period, seconds after the Islanders’ fourth power play ended and with Ilya Sorokin (17 saves) still off for an extra skater.

Brock Nelson’s power-play wrister made it 3-2 at 17:25 with Sorokin again off for an extra skater. Luke Glendening’s empty-netter with 30.8 seconds left clinched it for the Lightning, who had lost, 6-2, at UBS Arena on Feb. 8.

“It’s been tough sledding,” Lee said. “We not getting the results we’re going out there for. That adversity, it can be tough. You’ve got to push through it. You’ve got to stay positive. We can do it. We’ve just got to find a way to get the results.”

The Islanders had little jump to start in a passive first period. They trailed 2-0 after 20 minutes as the Lightning held a 9-6 shot advantage and a 25-9 edge in attempts.

Nicholas Paul opened the scoring at 4:12, getting to the left post to tuck in the rebound of Brandon Hagel’s initial shot.

Bo Horvat’s apparent goal at 4:42 was overturned after a lightning-quick review determined Lee was offside. Nikita Kucherov connected from the blue line through traffic for a 2-0 lead at 5:34.

Kucherov also set up Brayden Point’s power-play goal at 5:00 of the second period to make it 3-0.

“The wins are absent at this moment,” said coach Patrick Roy, who is 4-5-3 since replacing Lane Lambert. “But I believe every day we do a step forward, it’s a step closer to success. I think they feel it.”

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