ELMONT, N.Y. — The Islanders can’t escape third-period calamities and this time, it sunk them in deep water against the lowly San Jose Sharks.
New York blew a three-goal third-period lead in the final eight minutes of regulation before San Jose’s William Eklund fired the game-winner for the Sharks with 4.3 seconds remaining in overtime, relegating the Islanders to a disastrous 5-4 loss.
“We had the game under control with eight-and-a-half minutes left,” head coach Lane Lambert began. “To lose that hockey game is sin.”
After taking a three-goal lead with 11:33 remaining in the third period following Mike Reilly’s shorthanded goal — his first as an Islander — and a power-play strike by Ryan Pulock, New York allowed a trio of San Jose goals in a 6:35 span in the final moments of regulation to force overtime. Kevin Labanc’s redirection with 8:05 to go was followed up by a pair of Tomas Hertl tallies to cap off a hat trick — his final tally tying the game with 1:30 remaining in the third period for an easy tap-in goal when left wide open at the right post.
“It’s unacceptable, that’s all that needs to be said,” center Brock Nelson said. “Up two at home, four or five minutes left, we should be putting two points in the bank and moving on… For whatever reason, this is costing us too many times.”
Bo Horvat and Simon Holmstrom each recorded a pair of assists while Julien Gauthier and Nelson scored early goals for the Islanders (10-7-7) in their first game of a six-game homestand.
Gauthier gave the Islanders the lead at the 9:28 mark of the first period when he rifled a Holmstrom pass top shelf for his second goal in as many games — the first time in his career that he’s scored in consecutive games. The 26-year-old winger, who was playing in just his seventh game this season after being a healthy scratch for the majority of the first month, has four points in his last four games.
Holmstrom, who reeled in a hard cross-ice feed from Horvat in the neutral zone to set up the entry and goal, picked up his first helper of the season.
San Jose found an equalizer just 2:51 later, though, at the 12:19 mark when Hertl rifled a wrister over Sorokin from an Anthony Duclair feed from behind the net.
Nelson regained the lead for the Islanders 5:27 into the second period with a patented power-play wrist shot from the right circle that just snuck past Kahkonen’s blocker side. It was the Islanders’ first power-play goal at home since Nov. 7, breaking a three-game drought.
“Any time you get [those special-teams contributions] you’ve got to win those games,” defenseman Noah Dobson, who recorded an assist, said. “There’s no question about it. We have to find a way to win those games.”
As the Islanders put the finishing touches off a penalty kill early in the third period, Holmstrom carried the puck deep into the San Jose zone and managed to wheel a pass to a wide-open Reilly, who sent a slapper over Kahkonen with one second left on the kill.
“Before I came here it was a couple weeks before I played a game,” Reilly said. “You want to step right in and feel like you’re not going to miss a beat out there but it took me a couple games but it’s starting to come around here.”
Just 3:10 later, Pulock cannoned a power-play goal from the left circle to give New York a three-goal lead at the 8:27 mark of the frame, clinching the first time this season that the Islanders scored multiple power-play goals in a single home game, but also sparking the regulation collapse.
Labanc’s redirection came with 8:05 left in the game off a Nikita Okhotiuk point shot. With 4:11 remaining and the Sharks’ net empty, a shot off the back boards redirected perfectly to Hertl, who stuffed his second goal of the night home past the outstretched foot of Islanders goalie Ilya Sorokin.
The New York netminder, who made 27 saves on the night, had no chance on Hertl’s tying goal. The Islanders failed to clear the zone and after a drop pass to Eklund had the defense scrambling and out of sorts behind the net, Hertl was wide-open for a tap-in.
“It’s on our stick, we turn it over, it’s in the back of our net,” Lambert said. “On the fourth goal, we have a chance to make a play with it, shoot it down into the empty net, we turn it over, it ends up in the back of our net. So what happened was too many turnovers in those situations. We’ve got to do a better job of managing the puck, taking care of the puck, and getting the job done.”