There will be indelible marks left from the strange and unpredictable start of this lockout-shortened season.

And when the dust settles, the Islanders will be happy for games like yesterday afternoon's at the Coliseum, where they managed to barely hold on to a four-goal lead and beat the Lightning, 4-3.

"We have to grind teams down to have success," said coach Jack Capuano, back behind the bench after missing Saturday's 2-1 season-opening loss to the Devils. "I think we did that."

Capuano was released from the hospital Sunday after he had surgery to remove a large kidney stone. Although he said he was feeling dehydrated behind the bench, what he got to see was his team perform like world-beaters for 40 minutes — and then nearly give it all away in less than 10.

"This is the National Hockey League, there's good players in this league," Capuano said. "No lead is safe."

Within the first 41:31, the Islanders got breakaway goals from Michael Grabner and Matt Martin, a Kyle Okposo wrist-shot goal on an odd-man rush, and a nice give-and-go roofed by 23-year-old David Ullstrom. It was all cheers and chants from the 15,322 that made it out for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day festivities, with grown men dressed up as Marvel superheroes parading around to fuel the high-pitched fire.

"This was a big game for us, we needed to win it," said Martin, who fought B.J. Crombeen one second into the game while Isles defenseman Joe Finley simultaneously squared off with Pierre-Cedric Labrie.

"The Coliseum, when it's loud, it's rocking."

It can also turn ugly very quick, as it almost did when Martin St. Louis, Benoit Pouliot and Steven Stamkos all netted goals within a six-minute time frame early in the third period. That prompted Capuano to call a timeout, doing everything he could to stem what would have been a devastating collapse.