Matt Martin made the "cardinal sin" head coach Lane Lambert spoke about in the post-game after Saturday night's gut-wrenching 3-1 loss to the Nashville Predators.
Neither his teammates nor Lambert would mention Martin by name during the post-game. It's not what teams that are together do, and they all have too much respect for the player who has been a warrior for the Isles throughout his career. Instead, they focused on the disappointment of the loss and the fortunate bounce off a blocked shot that parachuted its way off Scott Mayfield's stick and behind Ilya Sorokin for the game-winning goal.
“We played a pretty solid road game for most of it,” Anders Lee said. “There's a lot of things to like, but we have to manage the moments better, especially those last five minutes. We’ve got to get it at least to overtime and get a point out of it.”
Nevertheless, there needs to be accountability, even for 15-year veterans, when you make an unforced error that costs your team a point or maybe two. Fans pointed out correctly that it was questionable why Martin was on the ice in the dying seconds of the game, as Lambert double-shifted the Clutterbuck-Pageau-Martin line in the final minutes of the game.
That point is valid, but we're not talking about it if Martin makes the simplest of plays and shoots the puck off the boards and out of the zone where the Preds defenseman had vacated. Instead, he tried a high-risk, low-reward pass up the middle, leading to the game-winning goal.
Back on Jan. 2 in Colorado, Cal Clutterbuck made an ill-advised decision at the red line with seconds remaining, turning the puck over to Valeri Nichushkin, who split two defenders and drew a penalty. Nathan MacKinnon won the game 32 seconds into O.T., which was all set up by Clutterbucks's turnover. There was no change to the lineup in the following game.
Lambert was notably upset during the post-game, but will that result in a lineup change this time? Since Casey Cizikas' injury was announced, the second-year coach has drastically shuffled the lines, which have been unable to produce much offense. Without Cizikas, the continuity that makes the fourth line what it has been isn't the same and less reason to keep Martin and Clutterbuck together, being centered by JG Pageau. Forward Julien Gauthier has been a healthy scratch the last two games, and Oliver Wahlstrom has skated with Anders Lee and Bo Horvat.
Every point is crucial in the Eastern Conference and the Islanders have lost too many points this season due to individual assignments missed or poor decisions at the most opportune times. The trend hasn't changed, but neither have lineups reflecting accountability for errors and miscues. We'll see if that changes as the Isles head to Minnesota for a game against the Wild on Monday night.