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Plenty of blame to go around in Islanders' ugly loss

Brock Nelson of the Islanders defends against Dion

Brock Nelson of the Islanders defends against Dion Phaneuf of the Toronto Maple Leafs at Nassau Coliseum on Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014. Credit: Jim McIsaac

There was no sugarcoating the Islanders' play Tuesday night. The four straight wins to open this season had them feeling confident, but the defensive-zone breakdowns and ugly goaltending in the second period of a 5-2 loss to the Maple Leafs were eerily reminiscent of seasons gone by.

The Isles' second straight loss has them heading the wrong direction as the calendar heads toward November, which has been the month of doom in recent Islanders seasons.

"We have a different standard in this dressing room now," Travis Hamonic said. "This wasn't good enough."

Phil Kessel scored two of the four second-period Toronto goals that erased a 2-1 Islanders lead and sent Jaroslav Halak to the bench after 40 minutes. Halak was beaten cleanly on all five goals, twice by Kessel off the rush from nearly the identical spot (left faceoff circle) and nearly the identical spot in the net (low stick side).

Those goals were sandwiched around scores by Roman Polak and David Clarkson, who were allowed to roam the Islanders zone relatively untouched before beating Halak cleanly.

It was four goals in an 8:49 span and the Islanders were done.

"We were too easy to play against," said John Tavares, whose first-period power-play goal put the Isles in front. "Too soft on pucks."

Jack Capuano had been rather tough on his players after the 4-0-0 start. He was bit more lenient after the second straight loss, noting the Isles had chances to extend their lead in the first, when they had three power plays, but converted only one, then got a fourth early in the second.

But Capuano was also quick to note that Tavares spoke up on the bench in the second period to try and wake his teammates up. And Capuano, though not calling anyone out by name, said "some of our younger guys need to learn what it takes every night in this league."

Brock Nelson, who had a torrid first four games, fought the puck again. Cory Conacher lost his spot on the top line for the third period and possibly beyond. Ryan Strome had a solid night, with a nifty setup for Nick Leddy on the game's first goal and a couple of other scoring chances.

The Isles had been juggling defense availability prior to the game and then lost another defenseman in the third period when Thomas Hickey lost his edge and caught Mike Santorelli's skate to his face. Hickey received multiple stitches to the cut from his mouth to his chin.

And Halak, who had been a big part of the four-win start, got yanked for the first time after allowing five goals on 23 shots.

"Everybody has to be better, starting with me," Halak said. "I need to be better, everybody around the room needs to be better . . . It's one of those nights where everything goes wrong."

The challenge for this team is to make sure one night doesn't become several.

New York Sports