An overdependence on Ilya Sorokin limited the Islanders all of last season, and has taken all of five games to start costing them this season.
For the second time in his last two starts, Sorokin played an excellent game to keep the Islanders in it against an opponent that looked superior for much of the evening.
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And for the second time in his last two starts, Sorokin gave up five goals and came away a loser, 7-4, to the Avalanche.
“I think it’s something we’ll look at and if we have to make changes, we’ll make changes on the way we’re playing certain things,” defenseman Ryan Pulock said. “Sometimes we need to be sharper in little areas. And sometimes we’re maybe over-backchecking too much and giving them lanes down [ice].”
Pulock clarified that he was not advocating for the system to be changed, but it’s clear after Tuesday that the Islanders need to tighten things up defensively.
“I think it’s just we need to clean it up,” he said. “We need a little more detail in certain areas of our game.”
A pair of Avalanche goals within 12 seconds during the last minute of the second period turned a hard-fought 3-2 Islanders lead into a 4-3 deficit entering the final period.
First Bowen Byram’s shot from the slot made it through traffic and then right off the faceoff, Nathan MacKinnon beat Sorokin clean from the left circle.
That was not the end of the Islanders — Anders Lee tied the game at four just 4:40 into the last period with a wrist shot from the high slot.
But just over three minutes later, sloppiness with the puck cost the Isles as Mikko Rantanen converted an odd-man rush goal following Adam Pelech’s turnover at the blue line.
The Islanders got a gift in the form of a four-minute power play when Tomas Tatar was called for high-sticking and tripping at 10:06.
But Mathew Barzal negated two minutes of it when he got called for boarding, and the Islanders came up short on the other two.
Ryan Johansen and Ross Colton’s empty-netters in the last minute sealed the game for Colorado.
“I thought the first few games we won, we were quick,” Jean-Gabriel Pageau told The Post. “Coming back to our zone quick on the breakouts, supporting each other. That’s when we’re good, when we’re close and playing together. I think we’re just gonna need to get back to that.”
According to data from the new NHL Edge website, the Islanders came into the night ranking below the 50th percentile league-wide in offensive-zone time at even strength (39.6 percent) and bursts of skating speed over 20 mph (83).
Those are small pieces that point towards what is quickly becoming a bigger issue.
The Islanders got some offensive-zone time and a forecheck going in the middle period, with good results.
They drew three penalties in the period, with Kyle Palmieri tying the game at two on the first of them.
And at the 5:55 mark, Simon Holmstrom’s wrister gave the Islanders an against-the-odds lead despite the team having been severely outshot to that point.
A first period in which the Islanders struggled to generate a forecheck, however, left them in a 2-1 hole, with the ice tilted in the wrong direction and set a tone for the night.
The defensive issues — it’s now 15 goals against in the last three games — overshadowed whatever good the Islanders showed after that.
The issue here is less the 2-2-1 record through five games than it is how similar this team’s flaws look to last year’s — and the worry that it indicates a similar path.
If the goal here really is to compete for a championship and not merely to fight for a wild-card spot again, that is a problem.
And it starts with the defense.
“Five-on-five-wise, we’ve been pretty solid,” coach Lane Lambert said. “But tonight, again, we had a couple breakdowns that were uncharacteristic and certainly uncharacteristic of certain players. There’s no question that we have some corrections to make.”