This season has been a rather weird one for the New York Islanders. There was a point in the season when they were one of the best third-period teams in the sport, coming back night after night to steal critical points.
In 10 games from the end of October to the second week of November, the Islanders went 5-1-0 with three comeback wins. They found themselves trailing the Colorado Avalanche 3-1 entering the third period on Oct. 29 before taking that game 5-4, with Brock Nelson’s empty-net goal serving as the game-winner.
On Nov. 7, the Islanders entered the third also down 3-1 before beating the Calgary Flames 4-3 in overtime thanks to a Noah Dobson goal.
A day later, the Islanders followed their rulebook of erasing another 3-1 third-period deficit as they knocked off the New York Rangers 4-3 thanks to an Anders Lee goal with 5:30 to play in regulation.
With that win, the Islanders had scored the most third-period goals in the lead (25) and owned a third-period goal differential of plus 14.
By the end of November, the Islanders had scored 35 third-period goals to lead the NHL, allowing just 20.
When December ended, the Islanders had dipped in third periods but still outscored their opponents 48-37.
But then there was a stretch in early January where the Islanders were swiss cheese in third periods.
In a disastrous month (4-8-3), the Islanders blew three leads in the third period, not including another three games in which the Islanders scored first.
On Jan. 12, the Islanders took a 1-0 lead into the third period against the Minnesota Wild but ultimately lost 3-1.
On Jan. 16, the Islanders allowed the Washington Capitals to erase a three-goal deficit, with one coming in the third period before Dmitry Orlov won it in overtime for one of the worst losses of the season.
And then up in Buffalo on Jan. 19, the Islanders blew a slim one-goal lead in the third period against the Sabres before only needing five seconds in overtime for Dylan Cozens to bury one and complete the comeback.
In January, the Islanders were outscored 13-4 in the final frame.
But now, in crunch time, the New York Islanders have found that third-period dominancy again, and it will likely be why they make the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Since returning from the All-Star break (15 games), the Islanders have outscored their opponents 20-3 in the third periods, posting a 9-3-3 record.
On a bit of a smaller scale, in the last 10 games, the Islanders have flat-out dominated the final frame, outscoring their opponents 17-1, with a record of 7-2-1.
Of those seven wins, three have come via third-period comebacks, with all three coming against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Their latest third-period comeback on Thursday night was one for the ages, erasing a two-goal deficit with less than six minutes to play.
Hudson Fasching’s goal with 5:29 to play and Anders Lee’s tally, with the net empty with 2:15 to play, forced overtime, and Brock Nelson sent his team home with two points as he scored on a breakaway.
No one can put their fingers on what’s been happening in third periods, especially after slower starts.
” I don’t know what whatever reason that is, but we find ourselves in the situation a few times this season. We’ve been able to come up with victories, and we’re able to kind of just reset after the second and realize, you know, where we’re at isn’t a good spot,” Brock Nelson said.
“We haven’t played our best, and we want to come out, turn up, and I thought we’re able to do that a bit more aggressive, on the puck and fore-checking, and create some more zone time in the offensive zone.
“I think we probably had more chances in the third than in the first two periods combined.”
Islanders head coach Lane Lambert has been asked about his team’s third periods often and was asked again after Thursday’s win.
“It kind of ebbs and flows,” Lambert said about their third periods this season. “At the beginning of the year, we were like that. We fell into a smidgen of a rut, but we’re back out of it.
“I mean, we’re playing hard, and we just continue to push, and so we’ll continue to do that as we go forward.”