Anders Lee of the Islanders battles for position during the first period...

Anders Lee of the Islanders battles for position during the first period against Nikita Zaitsev of the Senators at UBS Arena on Tuesday. Credit: Jim McIsaac

They are all must-wins now for the Islanders. No less than coach Lane Lambert acknowledged that. And yet, the Islanders keep finding ways to lose.

It’s three straight now after Tuesday night’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Senators at UBS Arena, all to Canadian teams outside the playoff picture, this time falling to goalie Kevin Mandolese in his NHL debut. They couldn’t win despite 48 shots — one shy of their season high  89 overall chances and a four-on-three overtime power play for the second straight game.

“I guess you’ve got to give their goalie some credit,” Lambert said. “It wasn’t for the lack of shot volume or putting pucks to the net. There were times when he saw the puck a little better than he should have been able to.”

The Islanders (27-23-7) outshot the Senators (26-24-3) 15-6 in the third period and 5-0 in overtime. But Tim Stutzle and Drake Batherson beat Ilya Sorokin (32 saves) in the shootout while Bo Horvat and Kyle Palmieri could not beat the 22-year-old Mandolese, who has split this season between the AHL and the ECHL.

The Islanders went 1-for-6 on the power play with 14 man-advantage shots.

“We put more than enough shots on net tonight to get a couple more or win the game,” said defenseman Noah Dobson, who took a game-high eight shots. “A lot of pucks just bouncing there, sitting there in the crease we just couldn’t bang home.”

The Islanders were coming off Thursday’s 6-5 loss to the visiting Canucks and Saturday’s 4-3 overtime road loss to the Canadiens. The Islanders couldn’t hold a third-period lead against either team, neither a playoff contender.

They are ninth in the Eastern Conference but have played more games than any team in the NHL.

“Right now, we view every game as a must win,” Lambert said.

Mandolese got the start with the Senators’ top two goalies, Cam Talbot and Anton Forsberg, both on injured reserve and Mads Sogaard, also a rookie, in net for Friday night’s come-from-behind 4-3 overtime win over the visiting Flames.

Brady Tkachuk’s tip at the crease for a power-play goal at 3:41 of the third period gave the Senators a 2-1 lead. Lambert pushed the Islanders through a hard practice Monday, emphasizing boxing out at the crease as well as on-ice communication.

“Communication is critical and I think there’s times when we can talk more,” Lambert said.

Brock Nelson’s one-timer from the right circle off Dobson’s feed tied it at 2-2 at 7:13 of the third period. Nelson extended his career high point streak to 11 games, the longest for the Islanders since Josh Bailey’s 11-game streak from Dec. 9-31, 2017.

Lambert tweaked his lines to start the second period, dropping the struggling Bailey from Horvat’s top line with Mathew Barzal to Casey Cizikas’ line with Matt Martin, technically not the fourth line with Otto Koivula subbing for an injured Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

“We had the lead early in the second and we get down a goal and we find a way to get back,” said defenseman Ryan Pulock, who beat Mandolese with a wrist shot from the high slot to make it 1-0 at 5:41 of the second period. “We had a lot of chances, scramble plays where if we could have put one away it could have changed the game but we were never able to find it.”

The Islanders were unable to build on that lead despite 19 shots in the second period. Stutzle tied it at 1-1 at 17:32 of the second period with a blistering wrist shot from the slot that deflected in off Pulock’s stick.


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