SEATTLE — Lane Lambert’s seat has never been hotter.
Before Thursday’s game in Seattle, Lambert talked about the need to cut down on mistakes, fix the struggling penalty kill and potentially dock players ice time if issues kept going.
Then the Islanders went out and made the same mistakes, kept struggling on the penalty kill, did not dock anyone’s ice time and extended their losing streak to seven games with a 4-3 shootout defeat to the Kraken courtesy of Kailer Yamamoto’s winner in the eighth round of a back-and-forth shootout.
“Nobody wants to win more than them,” Lambert said of his team. “They do. They spend every night working, whether it be practice, games, whatever it might be. And the effort is there every night. And for whatever reason right now, we’re not getting rewarded.
“There’s only one thing to do, and that’s to keep going until you start to.”
Right now, though, it feels like the Islanders have almost the same game in three different cities on this trip. Yet again in Seattle, they frittered away the game in the third period.
Noah Dobson’s one-timer through traffic broke a 2-2 tie just 1:48 into the final period to put the Islanders ahead.
It also meant the Islanders had to hold a lead for nearly the entire third — something they have not been so adept at doing lately.
And within minutes, they failed in doing so as Anders Lee took a slashing penalty, Yamamoto got free in front of the crease and tied the game at three at 4:50 of the period.
The Islanders did not lose in overtime for the first time in five tries this year, but fared no better in the skills competition, missing multiple chances to win the game.
Lambert said he did not dock anyone’s ice time because the Islanders were playing on a back-to-back, which begs the question of why he brought up the possibility before the game in the first place.
“It just doesn’t happen [on a back-to-back],” he said. “It’s about the team winning the hockey game.”
General manager Lou Lamoriello is not on this trip, having gone home after general manager meetings in Toronto on Tuesday. But it is hard to think he is not at least considering a change behind the bench with the Islanders now 5-6-5, stuck in seventh place in the Metropolitan Division and in danger of seeing their season evaporate by Thanksgiving.
Lamoriello last made an in-season coaching change in 2015, when he fired Pete DeBoer from the Devils over the holidays and installed a two-man coaching system of Adam Oates and Scott Stevens for the rest of the way.
After facing Calgary on Saturday, the Islanders have three days off before their next game, making it a logical time to make a change if one is in the offing.
Whether Lamoriello pulls the trigger on such a move or not, it is abundantly obvious that something needs to change for the Islanders to turn their season around.
“Obviously when our team isn’t winning, I feel a responsibility,” Lambert said. “But at the same time, we all feel it together. We’re in it together. Right now, the responsibility on shoring up the penalty kill is one of the biggest ones that I feel right now.”
The penalty kill — and the penalties the Islanders are taking — were again at the forefront of Thursday’s game as the Kraken scored all three of their goals on the power play. That erased some good work by the Islanders on their own power play, with Lee breaking a 10-game scoreless streak and Dobson’s goal coming at five-on-four.
The Islanders played a relatively fine game at five-on-five, too, scoring the game’s only even strength goal when Casey Cizikas finished a feed from Mat Barzal.
But like Wednesday night, a relatively fine game was not enough to walk away with two points.
“We’ve had leads in all of [the games], a lot of them in the third period,” Dobson said. “We got to find ways to get those extra points. But I mean, it’s the way it’s going right now. We just have to continue to put our head down, keep fighting.”