The New York Islanders’ third-period deficiencies can’t simply be labeled as a trend because their play over the final 20 minutes isn’t developing or changing. No, this certainly appears to be who the Islanders are in 2023-24 until further notice.
Hitting the quarter-season mark on Tuesday night in New Jersey, the Islanders presented the latest example of a team that more often than not can’t finish off hockey games.
Holding a 4-2 lead, New York yielded three third-period goals to the Devils, including Curtis Lazar’s game-winner with 23 seconds left in regulation to relegate the Islanders to a second-straight loss and their ninth defeat in 12 games.
It was sparked by yet another round of careless penalties. While holding a one-goal lead on the power play midway through the third, Mathew Barzal took a hooking penalty and 21 seconds later, Simon Holmstrom went off for a trip, turning New York’s 5-on-4 advantage to a 4-on-3 disadvantage. The Devils scored the tying goal 14 seconds later.
“It’s extremely concerning. We had the game under control,” head coach Lane Lambert said (h/t Islanders official site). “We had a power play and we take a penalty and then we take another stick penalty and instead of being up 5-on-4, they’re up 4-on-3…
“I didn’t think we responded well enough. This one stings bad.”
This is the fourth time this season that the Islanders have entered the third period with a lead before eventually losing (7-1-3 when leading after two periods this season). Their win percentage of .636 when holding a lead after 40 minutes is the second-worst mark in the NHL behind only the San Jose Sharks and those five points left on the table is what separates them from where they currently are at fifth place in the Metropolitan Division (22 points) and second place.
As they’ve constantly found themselves batting penalty problems, the Islanders have scored the second-fewest goals in the third period in the NHL this season (13) while allowing the sixth-most goals during the final frame (28). That minus-15 goal differential is the third-worst third-period goal differential in the league.
“That’s our kryptonite right now,” center Bo Horvat said. “We could easily have had a lot of these games and our record could have been a lot better if we stayed out of the box and got kills at the right time. We didn’t do that.”