Kieffer Bellows scored his first two NHL goals in his second NHL game as the New York Islanders came back to beat the Los Angeles Kings, 5-3 at Barclays Center.
For the second game in a row, the Islanders reversed a 3-2 third-period deficit to win, though this time they did us all the favor of finishing it off in regulation. They also overcame deficits of 2-0 and 3-1. Anders Lee’s hustle on a would-be icing finished things off for an empty net insurance goal.
Thomas Greiss, who made 22 saves, earned his 100th regular season win as an Islander and 136th in his NHL career.
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First Period: Sloppy
After such an impressive, 60-minute effort against the Stars, the Islanders’ start on this Thursday night was disappointing. They looked flat, their passing was off, their off-puck details sloppy.
And they paid for it, with a 2-0 deficit by the end of the first period.
A bad change allowed Ben Hutton to walk into the slot uncontested to beat Thomas Greiss at 10:20. The Casey Cizikas line followed that with some decent pressure, but that was perhaps the highlight of the first.
Then when you thought the Islanders might make it through a listless first period down just one goal and a chance to reset at intermission, they conceded again with 2:40 left.
Brock Nelson won a pokecheck heading back to his zone, but his second effort was a stationary-feet, one-handed shovel that had nowhere near enough oomph to get to Scott Mayfield. That left the puck free for Alex Iafallo to gather in the high slot, then shift leftward to shoot through a screen and beat a wrong-footed Greiss.
That seemed to finally awaken the Islanders, at least a little bit, and there was some good pressure by the top line late in the period. Ryan Pulock showed great patience and vision from the right wing boards to await a lane to set up Anders Lee right in front of Jonathan Quick for a redirect. But it looked like Lee’s mind was too focused on the need to lift the redirect, and instead he only got enough of it to send it still wide.
Second Period: Bellows breaks through
The Islanders emerged for the middle frame with more life befitting the hole they dug. And they were rewarded early when Nick Leddy circled behind the Kings net and banked a pass to the point to his partner, Johnny Boychuk. Boychuk’s one-timer may have been going just wide, but Michael Dal Colle — mid-battle in the crease — alertly positioned his skate to redirect it home.
The Islanders were on the board and just a goal down. They followed that shift with some good pressure that forced several saves from Quick. But the Kings struck next, restoring their two-goal lead after Noah Dobson’s pass up the right wing boards didn’t have enough to find Anthony Beauvillier.
Hutton, the interceptor, fed Michael Amadio, who sent a nice slant across the top of the crease for Trevor Lewis to direct past Greiss. Mayfield was caught on the wrong side of Lewis on the play.
Greiss made an outstanding stretch to stop Dustin Brown curling atop his crease, keeping the deficit at 3-1 at the midway point of the period.
Then a bit of history happened. Derick Brassard continued his solid play since the All-Star break and won a forecheck behind the Kings net. He fed Anthony Beauvillier at the bottom of the right-wing faceoff circle, and Beauvillier alertly found Kieffer Bellows cruising toward the backdoor.
Beauvillier’s pass was deflected slightly for a wobble, but Bellows settled it and made no mistake for his first NHL goal, in his second NHL game. Cue a fist pump and some happy puppy dancing in the corner of the Barclays Center rink.
Kieffer Bellows with his 1st @NHL goal#Isles | @NYIslanders pic.twitter.com/PG7gV2BlK0— Isles on MSG Plus (@IslesMSGN) February 7, 2020
The Islanders did themselves no favors late in the period when they gave the recently hot Kings power play (11 for their last 22) two consecutive chances, on hooking by Mathew Barzal and slashing by Anthony Beauvillier. But the PK unit greatly increased the Isles’ chances of fetching something from this game by expertly killing both chances off.
That let the Isles reach the second intermission down just 3-2, though there was a scare when they conceded a two-on-one in the final minute.
Third Period: Martin ties, Bellows wins it, Lee ices the cake
No sooner had Butch Goring pointed out, again, that the Kings were forcing the Islanders to play a slower “chip and chase” territorial game, than the fourth line once again proved his point on the opening shift of the third period. Following up on prior forechecking goals from the Brassard line, the combo of Casey Cizikas, Matt Martin and Leo Komarov kept it simple to hem the Kings in their zone. Martin picked up a rebound of a Devon Toews point shot to even the score at 3-3 just 23 seconds into the period.
The Islanders were in business.
They ended up outshooting the Kings 16-9 in the third, and the breakthrough came as the result of more solid forechecking. Brassard looked to catch Quick outstretched to the left of his goal with a lofted, low-angle backhand that just missed the net. That didn’t work, but it did pull Quick prone and out of the net. Thankfully, Bellows was there in the opposite corner to collect the puck and rifle it from the slimmest of angles into the open net.
Not his first NHL goal — that’s old hat, and came 20 minutes prior — so might as well log his first NHL game winner. It’s early, but Brassard has added the desired offensive punch to that third line while still playing responsibly. Now, to keep it going on the road, and keep it from making him feel too comfortable.
The Islanders played carefully but assertively through the rest of the third, though it was uncomfortable as the Kings pulled Quick with more than six minutes to go. A couple of icings bought time but not relief, yet they had a few good not-quite-icing clears to buy themselves line changes.
Then Brock Nelson’s try for the empty net with 20 seconds left was absolutely going to be an icing, but Lee had other ideas. He hustled to pull next to Alec Martinez, then the former football star bodied the Kings defenseman out of the way to not only negate the icing but get position to present the puck into the empty net. Game over.
Barry Trotz on the ugly first period:
“In the first period, we just didn’t put the right kind of work in. We were looking for an easy game. [The Kings] are too well coached and they have too many really good players for [us to get away with that]. ... We mismanaged, we weren’t willing to really go after them, double-digit turnovers when we didn’t need to.”
On overcoming that:
“We simplified in the second. Obviously the Brass line and Casey’s line were big.”
Can Bellows add the missing ingredient to the third line?
“It would be great if he could,” Trotz said. “There’s no reason why he couldn’t. He can skate in the league when you’re engaged and working hard. He has enough intelligence and calmness in his game, understanding of the game. He’s hard on pucks, he’s producing. He gives me no reason to think he couldn’t. The trick is to do it consistently.”
“[Dal Colle] is showing, ‘I want to be in the lineup and give you no reason to get me out. Kieffer is doing that, and they seem to have a little big of chemistry. So they’re moving up the ladder pretty quickly.”
Up Next: Hard Road
The Islanders take their five-game point streak into some tougher waters, with games on the road in Tampa, D.C., and Philadelphia. The win puts the Islanders momentarily back into third place in the Metro, but the Blue Jackets and Flyers lurk close behind.