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Isles blow three-goal lead for second game in a row

Minnesota Wild right wing Nino Niederreiter and Wild

Minnesota Wild right wing Nino Niederreiter and Wild center Charlie Coyle celebrate Niederreiter's game-winning goal off New York Islanders goalie Chad Johnson, left, during the third period of an NHL game in St. Paul, Minn., Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014. Credit: AP / Ann Heisenfelt

ST. PAUL, Minn - One time, it's a bad night. But now the Islanders have blown three-goal leads two games in a row and that could be a real concern.

The Isles had that lead entering the third period but were bulldozed. Former Islanders Thomas Vanek and Nino Niederreiter scored the tying and eventual winning goals, Niederreiter's coming with 4:33 to play and the 5-4 loss for the Islanders left them at a loss for words after they were manhandled in the final 20 minutes.

"We got what we deserved tonight. Things don't go your way when you don't work for it," Thomas Hickey said. "Outplayed, outcompeted, outexecuted. We were on our heels for 40 minutes and left the goaltender out to dry. It's unacceptable."

That goaltender was Chad Johnson, a late replacement for Jaroslav Halak, who suffered a minor upper-body injury during the day. Johnson was a bit scrambly in the third, but there were a pile a bodies in his face in the final 20 minutes.

Unlike Saturday's collapse, when the Isles let a 3-0 lead after one period slip away to the Blues thanks to a poor penalty kill, Tuesday night's meltdown came in condensed time. After rushing out to a 3-0 lead on an 11-3 shot advantage in the first, the Isles took a 4-1 lead into the third despite being outshot 12-1 in the second as Josh Bailey scored on their lone shot on goal.

But then came the numerous lost battles. Mikko Koivu scored on a quick wrist shot from Johnson's left at 2:51. Erik Haula came up with a loose puck in the slot, banked it off Hickey and in the net at 11:03.

Just 45 seconds later, Vanek scored just his third of the season, flipping a puck onto Johnson as he lay half in the net.

Niederreiter's also was ugly, scoring from his belly on a rebound after knocking Brian Strait off his skates.

"They've got to figure it out," coach Jack Capuano said. "[The Wild] shot three pucks at the net and scored. You've got to have the will to defend around your goaltender."

The Isles didn't seem to need that fortitude after a strong first. Michael Grabner scored at 8:31 to get them on the board, helped by a screen from Anders Lee, who was hit with a fine but no suspension on Tuesday for his elbow to the head of the Blues' Carl Gunnarsson.

Brock Nelson tipped in Nick Leddy's power-play shot at 17:15 and Matt Martin got a skate on Hickey's try at 17:47.

Martin was involved in a frightening play in the second. He went to hit Wild defenseman Keith Ballard, who either lost an edge or ducked at the last second. Ballard's head either hit the side wall, the ice or both and he appeared to convulse on the ice, drawing a passel of medical staff and a stretcher before being helped off to a local hospital.

Vanek called it a "dumb decision" by Martin after the game.

"It's hard to see, you never want to see that," Martin said. "You're out there trying to finish a check, wear the opposition down but no one wants to injure anybody."

The aftermath seemed to bring the Wild into the game. Jason Pominville scored on the power play at 9:01 but Bailey's goal at 17:17 seemed to calm things down.

"We have the puck on our stick in our own end, but we can't get moving, we get stuck and then it's a long shift," Frans Nielsen said. "We've got to figure it out and see if we can get out of this."

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