The Islanders were well on their way to proving their mettle by scoring a first win this season over a playoff team — and doing so against the team that knocked them out last year at that.
Instead, all they proved was that they cannot protect a multi-goal lead at home.
For the fourth time in seven games at UBS Arena this season, they flushed one of those right down the toilet — and for the second time, it resulted in a bitterly disappointing loss as the Hurricanes came back to beat the Islanders 4-3, on Sebastian Aho’s overtime winner.
“Is it a trend? No,” coach Lane Lambert said. “It’s too early. But certainly something we need to make sure doesn’t become a trend.”
It may not be a trend to the head coach, but the disastrous play when sitting on a lead has certainly become characteristic of the Islanders 10 games into the season.
“I think we got on our heels a little bit,” Ryan Pulock told The Post. “Sitting back a little too much. It cost us.”
To make matters even worse than the overtime loss against Detroit last week, the blown lead this time was 3-0.
It did not take long after the Islanders opened up that lead for Carolina to start chipping away at it.
Jalen Chatfield pulled the Hurricanes back to 3-1 at 8:18 of the second, barely 30 seconds after Mathew Barzal scored on a breakaway for the Islanders.
That set up a total collapse in the third period.
The Islanders defended well enough for a while.
But Dmitry Orlov finally broke through with 7:41 to go in the game, getting Ilya Sorokin to go the wrong way on a shot that ricocheted off an Islander body from the top of the offensive zone.
Without Adam Pelech — missing this game with a lower-body injury — and with an already hairy record when defending leads on home ice, that did not seem a particularly comfortable spot for the Islanders.
Indeed, it was not.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi tied the game at three on the Hurricanes’ 45th shot of the night at 15:26 of the final period.
And come overtime, the Islanders failed for the third time in three tries this season, with Aho scoring on Carolina’s first shot of the extra period.
“Very frustrated,” Ilya Sorokin said on a night where he faced 101 shot attempts, 48 of which went on net. “It’s the second good game in a row for me where they won in the third period and we lost the game.”
The Islanders at least salvaged a point.
But it is farcical to suggest they should be happy with how they are playing after Carolina came into their building, outshot them 20-5 in the third period and 47-24 in regulation.
“The commonality I see is that we get the puck on our stick, we have to make plays with it,” Lambert said. “If we make plays and we manage the puck, then we’re playing on our toes and we’re playing at our best. We just haven’t done that quite well enough up to this point.”
It’s not a surprise that the Islanders, now 5-2-3, are banking on goaltending.
The extent to which they are doing so, however, is unsustainable and extreme.
On Saturday, with Pelech out injured, the Islanders again sat back in their own zone, picking and choosing their spots to take offensive chances.
It worked for a while.
But not when it mattered.
“We have to make plays coming out of our own zone,” Lambert said. “We spend more time than we need to in our zone, which then we get the puck out, we have to change, so there isn’t really any offensive push when that happens. … Offense starts 200 feet from their net. That’s where we have to shore up our decisions and our management of the puck.”
This was not just reminiscent of last week against Detroit, but of the last time the Islanders faced the Hurricanes.
In Game 6 of the first round last April, Carolina took advantage of the Islanders getting conservative in defending a 1-0 third period lead to come back and win in overtime.
If there were any lessons learned from that, they were not apparent here.
This story originally appeared on NYPost