The New York Islanders extended their home winless streak to six games against a team that played like it had more on the line and had been through such situations before. Though the Isles had one lead and the score was tied for three-quarters of the game, the Los Angeles Kings controlled the first and third periods and got the winner with 4:23 remaining after sustained pressure against the Islanders' top line.
With the 3-2 regulation loss, the Isles wasted a very good performance by Jaroslav Halak and an impressive 94-second 3-on-5 penalty kill in the second period.
The defending Stanley Cup champion Kings inched closer to a return to the playoffs, strengthening their current run to 8-2-2 in their last 12 games.
In their chase for home ice in the playoffs, the Isles can take some solace in the fact that the Pittsburgh Penguins -- their increasingly inevitable first-round opponent -- also lost in Carolina, 5-2, keeping them two points behind the Islanders in the Metro standings.
'So Much for Momentum'
After a brutal first period where they were outshot 14-5, the Isles rebounded in a big way in the second period and looked like they refound their game. That included, but was interrupted by, a lengthy two-man disadvantage where defensemen Travis Hamonic and Nick Leddy were in the penalty box.
Clinging to a 1-0 lead on Frans Nielsen's goal a few minutes earlier, Nielsen was joined in impressive turns by Thomas Hickey and Johnny Boychuk, then Brian Strait and Calvin de Haan in killing off the 5-on-3. Halak's saves certainly helped, but it was essential that the four defensemen committed to the energy-sapping crouching and sprawling required to disrupt passing lanes when down by two men.
The Isles even capped the first part of the kill with that rarest of events, the shorthanded defenseman breakaway. However, Leddy was unable to convert against Jonathan Quick, who waited out Leddy's move as Jake Muzzin pressured from behind.
Alas, the Kings reapplied pressure after the second penalty expired, and within 25 seconds Nick Shore banked Dustin Brown's pass into the goal with his skate after Brown dangled into the zone and around the net.
"So much for momentum," said Howie Rose, nodding to the convention that killing 5-on-3's builds hockey karma.
In the third period, the Isles had a chance to take the lead with a power play -- one on which they would eventually score, but not before giving up a killer shorthanded goal. John Tavares fell prey to the Kings leaving the zone and accelerating right off the bat, and a 2-on-2 became a de facto 2-on-1 as Tavares meekly let Tyler Toffoli escape behind him to reach the rebound of Jeff Carter's strategically placed shot.
Fortunately, Boychuk scored on a shot from the point 1:36 later, looking like he'd saved the Isles a regulation point and perhaps more.
However, the Kings did not cooperate in the NHL's Interconference Point Sharing scheme. Rather than play for the tie, they dominated the third much like they dominated the first, and eventually their top line cashed in by making the Tavares line run around in circles until Anze Kopitar redirected a slap-pass from the point past Halak.
Turnovers and sloppiness killed the Isles, leaving Jack Capuano visibly upset with players and "puck management" after the game.
Capuano: "You know what? You can't just turn a switch on and off. I've seen enough of some guys playing like that, certain guys." #Isles— Stephen (@StephenCLorenzo) March 27, 2015
Definitely the most upset and emotional I've seen Cappy in a while. Expect line and lineup changes this weekend— Matt Saidman (@MattSaidman) March 27, 2015
The task ahead gets no easier for the Isles, as a team that had excelled so well at home in Nassau Coliseum's final season tries to break a late-season funk. A busy weekend looms with the Ducks on Saturday afternoon and the Red Wings early Sunday evening.