January becoming cursed month for Lane Lambert’s Islanders

Islanders Adam Pelech
Winnipeg Jets’ Mason Appleton (22) celebrates his goal as New York Islanders’ Adam Pelech (3) looks away during the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. (Fred Greenslade/The Canadian Press via AP)

Two Januarys under Lane Lambert and, so far, two alarming months for the Islanders.

New York is amidst another swoon to start the calendar year which has derailed a persistent two-and-a-half months that saw them sit in second place in the Metropolitan Division on New Year’s Eve despite a litany of issues, which ranged from a seven-game losing streak in November, third-period collapses, goaltending regression, and uncharacteristically porous defense. 

Since the calendar flipped to 2024, the Islanders have won just two of eight games, a 2-5-1 record, that includes a three-game losing streak on a four-game road trip, which concludes on Friday night in Chicago against the Blackhawks. 

The same alarming problems have been the crux of it. 

Taking a 1-0 lead with eight minutes to go in the game on Saturday in Nashville against the Predators, the Islanders yielded an equalizer just 3:08 later following a Kyle Palmieri tripping penalty and then the go-ahead goal with just eight seconds remaining in regulation. 

A fuming Lambert admonished his team’s turnovers and penalties, calling it a “calamity of errors.”

But as a response, the same issues emerged just two nights in Minnesota against the Wild. They took three first-period penalties and another two in the second, allowing Minnesota to cash in on the power play twice to build an insurmountable three-goal lead on its way to a 5-0 win.

“I just didn’t like our effort at all,” Lambert said (h/t Islanders official site). “We weren’t 100% committed to playing the game the right way from the start and it snowballed as we went along… It’s unacceptable.”

Islanders Noah Dobson
Minnesota Wild center Connor Dewar (26) is surrounded by teammates after scoring during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the New York Islanders, Monday, Jan. 15, 2024, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)

Yet there the Islanders were on Tuesday night in Winnipeg against the Jets falling behind 3-1 while taking four penalties in the first two periods. They lost 4-2.

New York now sits in sixth place in the Metropolitan Division — a team seemingly incapable of putting together positive results consistently enough to be considered a legitimate playoff contender. Luckily for them, a tightly-packed Eastern Conference sees them just one point out of the second and Wild Card spot, though two teams are separating them from the Tampa Bay Lightning, who hold that final seed. 

Should this alarming January trend continue, though, the Islanders will only dig themselves into a deeper hole. Last season, they went 2-8-3 to start the month, which consisted of just five out of a possible 26 points. It forced them to scramble and claw their way back into the playoff race — doing so on the final night of the regular season to clinch a Wild Card spot before losing to the Carolina Hurricanes in six games. 

At this rate, they’ll have to do that again.

For more on the Islanders, visit AMNY.com