Last month many people looked at the current stretch of home games on the Islanders' schedule and saw a chance for the team to put up some wins. It hasn't worked out that way so far. The Islanders dropped their third in a row on home ice, this time to the underperforming Tampa Bay Lightning.
On a night (12/21) when the New York Dragons banners were finally (and hopefully permanently) removed from the Nassau Coliseum, missing too was the Islanders' killer instinct. In a game they led 1-0 and 2-1, the Islanders lost by a 4-2 score.
Trent Hunter opened the scoring and Dwayne Roloson made two spectacular saves in succession as luck seemed to be on the Islanders' side this game. The feeling was short lived though as young Steven Stamkos netted his 21st goal of the year at 6:20 into the second period.
Kyle Okposo, now in a 16 game goal scoring drought, at least helped Nate Thompson gain a measure of satisfaction when he assisted on a pretty goal. It was Thompson's first tally of the season, though you'll certainly remember that it was Thompson who missed on the easiest of chances against the Rangers 9 nights ago. There was no miss this time, as #11 put the puck past goalie Mike Smith for another lead before things went haywire for the Isles.
Perennial thorn in the side Ryan Malone scored twice in the third period after Vincent Lecavalier equalized for Tampa with time winding down in the second. Both of Malone's goals came on power plays, an area in which the Islanders have struggled of late. Coach Scott Gordon conceded this point after the game, saying "we're getting outplayed on special teams, we're not getting outplayed 5-on-5."
In the end, it only meant another missed opportunity in a season filled with them and more frustration for players and fans alike.
The Islanders will have a chance to turn things around on Wednesday (12/23) when they welcome in Toronto, a team who has righted their ship after a 3-11-6 start. The Islanders need to do the same, and quickly, before thoughts begin to turn to planning for next season.