After a too-familiar start put the Isles behind 2-0, they actually looked like they’d escape with a regulation win when Anders Lee gave them their first lead of the game with just over three minutes to go in regulation. But the Kings got a late one to force overtime, and creating more work for the evening.
The 4-3 comeback win was a good showing overall, and it came against one of the best teams in the West — and the league — even if tonight’s regulation point was the Kings’ only return after visiting all three metro area teams.
Also refreshing on this night was Thomas Greiss’ performance, which was confident, steady, and on multiple occasions kept things where the Isles needed them.
First Period: Here we go again?
The game started like so many over the past month: Even play, but with the opposition striking first...and second. The Kings didn’t break through until 13 minutes in, Oscar Fantenberg striking on a cannon shot from the point that went through Cal Clutterbuck’s legs.
The Kings power play has been struggling and the Isles easily killed off their first opportunity when things were still scoreless, but the second one doubled the Kings lead. Tyler Toffoli made it 2-0 just four minutes after Fantenberg’s goal.
Though it was a fairly even period, and Thomas Greiss wasn’t to blame on the goals against (at least not in the “here we go again” way with the Islanders’ recent goalie woes), the Isles looked like they would be hitting the intermission in a significant hole yet again.
Instead, Josh Bailey struck again. This time, he just had to be in the right place and position for a deflection. John Tavares did much of the work to hold and carry the puck around the Kings zone before distributing to Calvin de Haan, who made a heads-up intentionally wide shot to find Bailey.
Bailey’s goal came with just 50 seconds to go and changed the outlook for the next 40 minutes.
Second Period: Decision Postponed
Indeed, it would take 40 minutes to get a clearer idea of where the game would go.
The second period was scoreless, though not without chances and some theater. The Islanders squandered two power plays, which overlapped for a brief and wholly unimpressive 5-on-3.
The Isles’ only penalty of the period came from a rare fight, Jason Chimera taking exception to a lingering check by Trevor Lewis along the glassless Islanders bench.
Good chances were there for Anders Lee and Cal Clutterbuck among others, but both teams came up empty with shots 10-8 for the Isles.
Also in this period: a continuation of the endless Star Wars sound effects in the building, as fans and event staff were fully prepared for Star Wars Night.
Third Period: Late drama, controversy
The Islanders finally equalized early in the third period with, finally, a power play goal. Jake Muzzin was whistled for elbowing after his shoulder check caught Cal Clutterbuck in the head, leading the refs to think there was some elbow too.
The goal did not come as designed: Bailey centered to the high slot for Anders Lee, who fanned on it, but thankfully John Tavares was ready and waiting. He one-timed and beat Darcy Kuemper, who was still recovering from facing Lee’s would-be shot.
The Isles were handed a great chance to build on that momentum when Anze Kopitar took Ryan Pulock down with a trip. That power play was futile (again), and then the Kings finally got another chance soon afterward when Clutterbuck was penalized for hooking.
The Isles killed that one fairly comfortably, though they gave up a few odd man rushes later on that Nick Leddy extinguished through Jedi speed tricks.
And then, relief: The Isles had Muzzin and Drew Doughty at the end of the shift and lagging after an icing call. Pressure resumed with Tavares again walking the blueline before setting up a point man, this time Pulock accepting the puck. Pulock rushed into the circle and sent the puck toward the net, where the ideal man awaited.
That was of course Lee, stationed in his office, where he stopped Pulock’s pass/shot and calmly roofed a backhand over Kuemper for a 3-2 lead.
The Kings pulled Kuemper with 90 seconds left, and the Isles had a few clears and then came agonizingly close to one final clear that would have likely sealed a regulation win. Instead, Doughty galloped across to keep the puck on side with a slap at the last possible moment.
Now, the Fury
That caught too many Isles up high, and the Kings volleyed it back on Greiss, who made the initial save and stopped a rebound stuff but could not keep Kopitar’s push from poking the puck through and tying it with 13 seconds left. Greiss had tried to pull the puck back to his pad with his glove. Kopitar was jamming away. Impossible to say that it wasn’t loose under Greiss’ pad on the play.
After deliberation, the on-ice officials ruled a good goal. Toronto reviewed and declined to overturn. Doug Weight was infuriated — and it’s hard to blame him — though it was a little less of a “stick pushes goalie” than Anders Lee’s overturned goal earlier this month against the Capitals. So, at least we know the line is somewhere in between Lee’s non-goal and Kopitar’s.
(Weight was still pissed about it after the game. “I’m still not calm,” he joked, when Stan Fischler asked how he calmed his team down. He felt the play was identical to Lee’s overturned goal. I imagine the distinction will be that Lee’s stick pushed the goalie (along with the puck) into the net, whereas Greiss didn’t fall into the net with the puck.)
The league posted a non-explanation explanation, basically saying their review “confirmed no goaltender interference.” Check Weight’s reaction in his post-game here:
Overtime: Barzal and Eberle Show
Greiss bailed out Tavares early in overtime after the captain lost an edge at the Isles blueline, forcing a Gress stop on Kopitar’s breakaway. The opening trio (Bailey and Leddy too) did nothing after that, with a depressing dump-in to finish their shift.
Thankfully, Barzal and Eberle was ready.
Adam Pelech had used his reach to stop a Kings rush on the previous rush. After a change and a Calvin de Haan turnover, it was de Haan’s to play her as he dove to help break up a 2-on-1, though he appeared to get hurt on the play, and went to the locker room for medical while his teammates celebrated.
Still, de Haan’s play helped send Barzal heading the other way. He set up Eberle on the 2-on-1, and Eberle pasted it high far corner for the win.
- Steve Bernier, called up after Joshua Ho-Sang was sent to Bridgeport, played 11:34, including 3:31 on the power play.
- The Islanders were thieves on the faceoffs all night, with Anthony Beauvillier (one for five) the only guy not to dominate above 60 percent of his draws.
- Greiss’ line reads “three goals on 29 shots,” nothing to write home about. But again, it looked like a stronger game for him. He was particularly assertive on the odd-man rushes and tracked shots through traffic well, directing them to safe areas. Tonight he looked like he was in the form he wants to be in.
Ebs: I felt the whole night we played well, we created chances. Obviously the score wasn’t going our way for most of the game, but we stuck with it and found a way to take the lead and ultimately win. #Isles #LAKvsNYI pic.twitter.com/lkDcTFUUmS— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 17, 2017
The Islanders welcome Frans Nielsen and the very-nearly-hapless Detroit Red Wings to town on Tuesday.