Special teams sunk the Islanders for the second straight game after the Islanders penalty kill gave up two power-play goals to Ryan Malone in the third period to seal a 4-2 Islanders loss to Tampa Bay at Nassau Coliseum last night.

And suddenly the holidays aren't looking so happy for the Islanders, who have now dropped seven of their last nine games.

"I'm a big believer in negativity breeding negativity, and we've got a lot of that right now," said veteran defenseman Andy Sutton.

With the game tied 2-2, the penalty-kill’s downward spiral continued; the unit has given up eight power-play goals in the last three games and 16 in the last 35 chances over the past 9 games.

After the Islanders’ second delay of game penalty, Malone scored to snap the tie as Steven Stamkos’ rebound popped right to his stick and allowed him to slide it through Dwayne Roloson’s leg for a 3-2 Lightning lead at 2:48 in the third.

Then with Sutton in the box for interference, Malone scored his second of the period as he simply stuck his stick out to tap in a centering feed from Marty St. Louis at 11:39.

"It seems like we definitely take the wrong penalties at the wrong time and they find holes in our defense," Sutton said.

What seems to be most perplexing is that despite their shortcomings on special teams, the Islanders are playing sound hockey at even strength.

“We’re getting outplayed on special teams, not on 5-on-5,” Scott Gordon said.

In the first period, Dwayne Roloson made miraculous back-to-back saves to prevent the Islanders from falling behind.

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After getting caught behind the net as the puck took a bad bounce off the end boards, Roloson had to scamper back to make a spectacular stick save on Steve Downie’s backhander at 6:55. He then immediately spun into a roundhouse-like kick that stopped Todd Fedoruk’s follow-up wristshot and suspended the puck at the goal line for several seconds before defenseman Bruno Gervais cleared it from the crease, a no goal that was affirmed upon further review.

Roloson received some help when Trent Hunter scored at 16:47 to take a 1-0 lead and give the team it’s first power-play goal in 20 chances.

Gordon, however, was not happy with the team's power play.

"We make too many soft plays," Gordon said. "We're not cashing in enough on our power play to make up for our inefficiencies on the penalty kill."

Stamkos tied the game in he second period as he directed the puck past Roloson after a nice give-and-go with Marty St. Louis at 16:20.

Nate Thompson, who missed an empty net Thursday against the Rangers, wristed one past Mike Smith at 16:25 for his first goal of the season to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead in the second.

The Lightning tied the game again as Vinny Lecavalier’s laser from the left circle zipped over Roloson’s shoulder with 18.6 seconds left in the second.

That led to the third-period backslide for the Islanders special teams, one reason the Islanders have failed to pad their record despite having an advantageous eight-out-of -ten home game stretch.

"It's terrible," Sutton said. "All these teams are right there with us and we're just letting it slide. This is a time for us to stockpile points and were letting them fall away.”