Wait a minute, I recognize this feeling. How quickly I forget.
See, I'm good at holding reasonable expectations for a season and just enjoying the ride. So the Islanders' sub-.300 record so far this season hasn't bothered me terribly. This is a rebuild year, a prospect development year, and I came in ready for some growing pains.
Or so goes the daily affirmation.
But what I forgot is, no matter how measured my expectations for a season, the in-game drama will still get to me, same as it ever was. The ups and downs on the path to the buzzer are just as high, just as low.
So when the Islanders blow a multi-goal third-period lead for the third time in four games, it kills. When it comes against the last-place last-place-until-tonight Thrashers -- and botches the chance for a modest three-game winning streak -- it absolutely confounds. I guess I should be happy the Isles are even getting into this situation. At least they're not getting blown out like your average last-place bear.
The story of this one was captured in two separate 40-second segments.
The first came halfway through the second, when Frans Nielsen and Trent Hunter had the shift of the night, putting constant pressure on and picking up two goals seven seconds apart. Nielsen created both goals -- forcing play before earning a tap in on the first, then stunning the Atlanta D with moves before setting Hunter up for a sniper's shot from the high slot. That sent the Isles into another third period with a multi-goal (3-1) lead.
The second blink-of-an-eye segment, which turned the game around, came soon after Islanders fans spent the second intermission fretting over whether they'd finally hold on to a hard-earned lead, with authority.
It took 29 seconds to answer that question, as Slava Kozlov knocked in his second of the night. The pivotal, harbinger moment came just 40 seconds later when Joey MacDonald, despite having able D-men around him, handled the puck and flipped it over the glass for a delay of game. Eight seconds after that, we're tied, and Atlanta's game-winner was just a formality.
The Isles never recovered, Atlanta kept pressuring, and now we're back in last place, wondering "If the easy games are gonna be this hard ..."
- Frans Nielsen and Trent Hunter looked magical in the second period.
- Bruno Gervais continued his solid play in the absence of Witt and Martinek, leading the team in ice time. In particular he hustled back in the second -- avoiding making a hook -- and kneeled down to seal off the pass on a would-be Atlanta 2-on-1.
- In the early going, the Isles set up several back-door chances that should have gone in.
- MacDonald's awfully timed, unnecessary penalty helped reverse the game.
- Doug Weight had golden chances he couldn't finish.
- We had a two-goal third period lead on the Thrashers. And lost.