The Islanders' Al Montoya makes a third-period save against the...

The Islanders' Al Montoya makes a third-period save against the Florida Panthers. (Feb. 21, 2011) Credit: Jim McIsaac

TAMPA, Fla. -- Al Montoya came to the Islanders a little more than 13 months ago, when the franchise barely had anyone to put in net. He brought some stability to the goaltending situation and earned a contract for this season.

He even earned the opening-night start. That feels like a long time ago. He played for the second time in a week Saturday night, beaten 4-3 by the Lightning on former teammate Tim Wallace's goal with 7:50 to play.

But it was also only Montoya's second start in a month, and his Islanders future isn't so bright.

Evgeni Nabokov signed for next season earlier this week. Rick DiPietro will presumably be healthy enough to compete for a role in training camp. And rookies Anders Nilsson and Kevin Poulin are in the mix, leaving little room for Montoya next year.

"Obviously, there's no surprises with Nabokov signed now," coach Jack Capuano said. "Al's a great teammate, a great kid and he's trying to help us down the stretch and help himself. You don't know where it's going to go."

Montoya beat himself up a bit for the Isles blowing a 3-2 lead, but there were breakdowns elsewhere. His team was down 2-0 after Steven Stamkos' second of the game and league-leading 52nd of the season just 1:46 into the second.

But the Islanders methodically controlled play until Matt Moulson swept a rebound past Dwayne Roloson 43 seconds into the third to put the Isles ahead by a goal, in search of a third straight road win. Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo had scored second-period goals, Okposo's with 35.5 seconds left, to knot the score.

But P.A. Parenteau failed to tie up Tom Pyatt on Montoya's doorstep, and Pyatt jammed in an easy goal to tie it at 9:08 of the third. With all eyes on Stamkos, Wallace cruised down the slot after taking a pass from Tampa's No. 91 and beat Montoya for the eventual winner, despite the Islanders holding a 37-26 shots edge.

"I didn't feel like I made the save when I should have," Montoya said. "It's not the way I wanted it to end."

If Montoya's Islanders career ends at the end of this season, it will become just another stop in the 27-year-old's NHL career. The sixth overall pick in the 2004 draft, Montoya made it through five seasons in the Rangers' and Coyotes' organizations with playing only five NHL games.

But Montoya, who holds a winning record in his Islanders tenure (16-12-10), felt he's shown enough in one-plus seasons here to earn a job somewhere in the NHL next season.

"I was that young guy once, so I know how it works," he said. "It's up to the organization what they want to do. For me, I need to finish strong, finish the way I know I can play. I've showed what I can do in this league, I've showed I can be a reliable guy in this league."

With at least one more set of back-to-back games next weekend, Montoya will get another game, or two, to show his worthiness.

"He's the sort of kid who deserves to play some," Capuano said. "He comes to the rink ready to work hard every day. You want those guys in your lineup."

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