So, that happened.
Then the Kings asserted themselves, completely controlled the third period -- even more than the Isles controlled the second -- and spaced three goals across the frame to steal a 3-2 heartbreaker that the Isles really, really could have used.
Tyler Toffoli's deflection with just 1:27 remaining completed L.A's comeback and sealed the home team's collapse -- though it wasn't so much a "collapse" as a steady wilt under pressure from a better, more experienced team.
Getting his third consecutive start, Kevin Poulin made a couple of big saves in the third to briefly stem the tide, but a bad angle, a trickler, and a deflection did him and his teammates in.
The Islanders certainly did not have the better of play in the first period, as might be expected. But they responded in a big way in the second , outshooting the Kings 15-5 and being rewarded with two goals that gave them their fairly deserved 2-0 lead at the second intermission.
The second-period goals were not quite typical, but enjoyable: The fourth line worked the puck in the corner before a good bounce had it come out front, and Casey Cizikas took advantage of a rebound off Ben Scriven's pad to net his first goal of the season.
A more important "first" followed, as Aaron Ness scored his first NHL goal by "activating" opportunistically after Kyle Okposo slashed Drew Doughty on the forecheck to win the puck, where John Tavares followed and fed Ness in the slot.
However, the Kings know what they're doing in this game, and the third period brought a firm, relentless push-back. The pressure began with a shorthanded breakaway by Mike Richards, well read and stopped by Kevin Poulin. Still scoreless to that point, a few more hairy chances followed before the Kings got their first goal via Slava Voynov banging home a goal from a bad angle that Poulin would surely prefer to have back.
Seven minutes later, after a Colin McDonald penalty for a (suspendable?) high hit on Trevor Lewis, the Kings equalized on the power play at 12:15. Tanner Pearson's shot trickled through Poulin just enough to cross the line and withstand replay review from Toronto.
Even if a full disaster seemed inevitable -- rather than at least a merciful regulation point and coin flip, which was just 87 seconds away -- Toffoli's deflection was just cruel. The best, hardest to stop goal of the trio, it happened in a flash after Jake Muzzin's shot from the point.
By not shutting the door, ultimately finishing with 21 saves on 24 shots, Poulin probably doesn't start his fourth consecutive game Saturday.
A third-period collapse and a steel-toed kick to the gut? Bring on the Twitter rage from the Reactionary Army in all its infinite wisdom.
(Apparently the Fundamentalist Church of Timeouts has returned in force. You just KNEW a timeout would've stopped Toffoli's deflection, or kept Pearson's shot from wobbling over the line. They are magical cards that cure what open play cannot. Slip a timeout in Poulin's glove and all worries are cast away.)
Instead of climbing back into third place in the weak Metro Division, the Isles remain in sixth, with the most games played (20) and two other Metro lightweights just a few points behind them. This one was a huge missed opportunity, like lessons from years past needing relearning all over again.
Their homestand ends Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings, who also know what they're doing out there.
More from Lighthouse Hockey:
- Video/GIF: These fans were also thrilled by Aaron Ness' first NHL goal
- Islanders-Predators Post-Game Video: Capuano on Kevin Poulin, Frans Nielsen
- New York Islanders vs. Los Angeles Kings Preview: Johnny be OK
- Islanders News: John Tavares hip, Thomas Vanek still out, Bridgeport shuffles
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