It happened. Again.
On Friday afternoon, the Islanders found a new, agonizing way to give up a decisive goal late, and it may have been the final nail in the coffin of this season.
Thirty-five seconds after John Tavares set up Nick Leddy for a one-timer to tie the game at 2-2, Patrick Marleau deflected Brett Burns' shot home past Thomas Greiss to give the Sharks a 3-2 lead with just 22.5 seconds to play.
According to Eric Hornick's latest edition of The Skinny, the Isles have been tied in the third period in six of their 10 regulation losses (and 10 of their 14 overall losses), but have allowed the lead goal in the final three minutes of regulation five times. Additionally, the Isles have allowed a tying goal three times in the final minutes (they went on to win only one of those games).
The coaches, whose jobs are in jeopardy, vote of confidence or not, have to be beside themselves. The players are struggling to explain it. It's hard to comprehend how it's gotten to this point.
"We probably played one of our best games, too," John Tavares told reporters after the loss. "We played a good game. We did a good job of taking it to them."
The captain is right. The Isles looked great for the bulk of this one. They held the Sharks to 28 shots on goal, and San Jose won 5-on-5 attempts battle 59-52, a much smaller margin than we've grown accustomed to the Isles being out-Corsi'd. The small silver lining is the Isles aren't a team that gets blown out very often. In fact, save their contests with the Lightning, they've been in essentially every game this season.
Unfortunately, that matters very little when the team can't find a way to get points in those games. The NHL doesn't give points for moral victories or glass-half-full optimism. All the Isles have to do is look at their place in the cellar to know that's true.
Here's the deal: Thanksgiving is usually a measuring stick moment in an NHL season. If you're not in the playoff picture now, you're probably not going to be contenders. The Isles are very much not in the picture, and as a result, they should start to seriously consider what their next step is for this season. If that's becoming sellers, so be it. Start making some tweaks with an eye toward 2017-18.
Because thanks to all these late failings, this season is, at best, on life support. And frankly, it may already be dead.