The New York Islanders wrapped up their California trip on Sunday night in Los Angeles against the Kings, who entered as one of just two teams in the NHL without a regulation loss.
A late surge could not undo a two-goal deficit, as the Islanders lost the game 3-2. Josh Bailey and Casey Cizikas were your goal scorers.
Both teams were on the second of a back-to-back and it showed. The first period was pretty lackadaisical across the board.
Adam Pelech took the game’s first penalty nine minutes into the game on a ticky-tack boarding call. The Kings failed to score on the man-up opportunity.
After the kill, the Islanders had some solid chances to score, including one 4-on-3 where Nick Leddy jumped into the rush. John Tavares had the puck on his stick between the circles for a wrister, but was unable to score.
Anze Kopitar, a former Selke winner, is really good at hockey. At one end, he made a special defensive play on a stick-check takeaway, and at the other end he threw a puck to the net, where it deflected into the net off the stick of Pelech with 7:16 left to play in the first period. 1-0, Kings.
Jaroslav Halak looked pretty good throughout the game, including a flurry of stops at the 3:20 mark in the period, culminating in a Jake Muzzin one-time blast that he stoned cold.
Raise your hands if you had Scott Mayfield making the deke of the game? Put your hands down, liars. With 80 seconds left in the period, the 25-year-old defenseman trotted past a Kings forward on a filthy toe-drag, marched in on goal, and failed to score. What a shame.
Doug Weight must have fired the team up during the first intermission (or he didn’t, but the assumption that he did makes for easy sportswriting rhetoric) because the Islanders came out like a bat out of hell in the second period.
They had better zone time and visibly had better energy. It seemed like the legs were moving better, from all lines. They were going to the dirty areas, cycling the puck, and playing good hockey.
About eight minutes in, the top line had a shift that resembled a power play, with Tavares and Eberle teasing the Kings defense with a game of keep-away on the offensive zone perimeter. This surge gave way to a second line attack that finally scored a goal.
Mathew Barzal had a beautiful one-time chance from the left faceoff dot that was snuffed out by Darcy Kuemper. Pelech threw in a dart from the blue line that was turned aside, then seconds later Andrew Ladd put a deflection on net and alas, in a scrum in front, Josh Bailey took a wrister — the Isles’ fourth shot on goal in 23 seconds — that scored. Barzal registered an assist for his NHL point. Here’s to many more.
The beginning of the second period, by my eye test, was the very best the Islanders have looked all season It was absolute relentless pressure.
Then Thomas Hickey took a penalty, a whistle for holding an opponent’s stick, to give the Kings a power play. Once there, Jake Muzzin uncorked a wrister from the right wing to give the home team a 2-1 lead.
The Islanders earned a power play late in the third period on a Jeff Carter slash. The man-advantage stalled, then New York returned the favor on a too many men call, which wrapped over through the intermission.
The Islanders opened the period by killing off the remainder of the too-many-men penalty. The Kings had a beautiful chance to take a 3-1 lead, but Pelech laid out in front of a Dustin Brown rebound chance, perhaps rectifying a couple of his first-period miscues.
Halak made a big stop on center Trevor Lewis on a slot shot just minutes later, keeping the deficit at one.
Soon thereafter, Eberle streaked from the bench, took a pass from Casey Cizikas, and got OH SO CLOSE to tying the score for the Islanders. He’s going to score soon. He’s doing almost all the right things, just not the hitting-the-twice thing. The play did draw a power play for New York, the team’s second opportunity of the game, but the power play failed.
Not only did it fail, but the Kings scored on a short-handed chance. Kopitar picked off a pass, led a 2-on-1, and fed it to former Norris Trophy winner Drew Doughty for the goal. Killer.
The Islanders offense put forth a very nice effort after going down two goals. Jason Chimera had a pair of golden opportunities, but nothing to show for it, except a ping of the crossbar.
Casey Cisikas finally got one back, potting a slick wraparound with 5:40 left in the game to bring the Islanders within 3-2. Cal Clutterbuck and Hickey received the helpers. A really good shift for the best fourth line in hockey™.
The best chance the Isles had in the final minute came when Barzal made a gorgeous cross-ice pass to feed Eberle on the left wing. Eberle’s shot trickled through the goalie to the far side, where Tavares had a wide open net, but he either missed or a Kings stick blocked his shot. Either way, the puck didn’t go in the net and the Islanders lost the game 3-2.
The Islanders ended up ahead on shot attempts, 61 to 47, thanks in part to score effects, but also in part to really high quality hockey throughout the game. The top line dominated possession, but had nothing to show for it.
Islanders player of the game
Jordan Eberle had seven shots on goal. At 5-on-5, he was on for 18 shot attempts for and 12 shot attempts against. He’s still snakebitten as an Islander, but it will come.
Kings player of the game
Anze Kopitar, perhaps due to playing his home games on the left coast at 10:30 eastern time every night, continues to be one of the most unheralded stars in the entire NHL.
In my humble opinion, he is the best two-way forward in the league, and he showed it on two goals for the Kings in this one. The Islanders turned the puck over around the Slovenian, and he made them pay.
Stat of the game
31 percent - The Islanders struggled mightily on the faceoff dot, with the Kings leading in the category 31 to 14. New York only won 31 percent of draws overall.
GIF of the game
The Islanders don’t play until Thursday, when they lace up the skates at Madison Square Garden to face the 1-5-0 Rangers.