NY Islanders third periods have gone from a strength to a liability

Jan 19, 2023; Buffalo, New York, USA;  New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin (30) and
Jan 19, 2023; Buffalo, New York, USA; New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin (30) and / Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
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Throughout the early part of the season, the Islanders were an elite third-period team with multiple improbable come-from-behind wins that, as exciting as they were, covered up for the inconsistencies in their game. The Isles were prone to slow starts but were a resilient group, capable of turning it on when the opposition sat back and provided an opportunity for the momentum to shift.

NY Islanders third periods have gone from a strength to a liability

The heroic comebacks against Colorado, Calgary, and the Rangers feel distant now as the team's third-period dominance has ended and been replaced by an inability to hold a lead in a tight hockey game. Lane Lambert's team was +16 in the third period through 23 games but is -12 over the last 24 games, meaning their overall third-period differential has shrunk to just +4.

Dmitry Orlov
Washington Capitals v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

Why is that happening? Some of it can be attributed to the loss of Adam Pelech. When healthy, Pelech and Ryan Pulock provide a team with a shutdown pair that can be matched against the opposition's best line and play heavy minutes down the stretch of games. Without Pelech, the team has had to rotate Robin Salo, Parker Wotherspoon and the last two games, Dennis Cholowski.

Meanwhile, Noah Dobson, Alexander Romanov and Scott Mayfield have all needed to step up and play bigger, more expansive roles with Pelech out of the lineup. Take for example the game against Washington in which Mayfield played 11:11 of the third period and the final 1:49 of overtime. For the game, he played played 28:10; it is the most ice-time for any Islander since Pulock played 29:00 vs. Montreal on November 5, 2018.

The other part of the equation is the lack of scoring. Part of holding onto a lead is the ability to add onto it and in recent games, includes the 2-1 win over Montreal, their only victory over the last eight games, the Islanders were unable to add to the lead in the third period. They were able to hold on against the Canadiens, but didn't have the same luck against the Minnesota Wild, Capitals or last night versus the Buffalo Sabres.

The Islanders haven't been able to put together full 60 minute games all season, and as of late it's the final 20 minutes that has proved most daunting.

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