Facing a team chasing history, the New York Islanders reversed their own recent history by authoring — rather than giving away — a third-period comeback to stun the Los Angeles Kings, 3-2 in overtime in Elmont on Saturday night.
The Kings arrived with a record 11-0 road start to the season, and they were pursuing NHL history with their attempt to win 12 consecutive road games within a single season. When they reached the third period with a 2-0 lead, it looked like all was set.
But Isles captain Anders Lee scored on two rebounds to tie the game, the Isles threatened to win it in the waning moments of regulation, then actually did so just 13 seconds into overtime when J-G Pageau took a Simon Holmstrom chip up the right wing boards in alone on Kings goalie Cam Talbot.
Pageau pulled off a fast deke and slipped the backhand through Talbot’s legs to send an appreciative crowd home happy.
Both Lee and Pageau have had their goal-scoring struggles through this season’s first quarter, so it was great to see them combine for a big comeback win — and you could see the relief, satisfaction and elation on each of their faces.
This, of course, means the Isles have now lost in regulation only once in their last 12 games — once since an alarming four-game regulation losing streak to start their mid-November Western trip — and it again left them in second place in the Metro before the late games completed.
First Two Periods: Nice start, rough middle
It was a good opening period for the Islanders, in that they played a very good visiting team pretty evenly. Officially, they outshot the Kings 11-10, but neither team broke the ice.
The second period was a different story, and of course it started with one of those “That’s great he stepped up for his teammate...but it cost them” incidents. Andreas Englund, who had been “tripped” by Mat Barzal early in the first period, stepped up for a strong check on Barzal when a pass in his own zone trailed him.
Englund immediately shook his gloves, ready to take on anyone who challenged him, so Scott Mayfield jumped the line to take him on. They fought well, each landing blows, and somehow Mayfield received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty — is this, like, Instigator Lite? — to give the Kings a power play.
The Kings, who move the puck very well and wide on their power play, crossed through the slot from board to board to set up Adrian Kempe for a one-timer inside the post that Ilya Sorokin just couldn’t quite get all the way over for.
That made it 1-0 at 5:40 of the second, and less than four minutes later the Kings lead had doubled. Before that, Mike Reilly took a crosschecking penalty to put the Kings right back on the power play, but soon afterward Cal Clutterbuck got under Quinton Byfield’s skin enough to draw a retaliation call to put them at 4-on-4.
Still, after all the dust settled, Vladislav Gavrikov sent a shot through traffic that eluded Sorokin up high to make it 2-0 at 9:08.
The Islanders challenged for goaltender interference, but it was a bit of a reach. Ilya Sorokin was definitely touched before the shot, but it was so brief and at the edge of the crease that it was a hard case to make.
Their closest chance to get one back came when Barzal rang one off the post and crossbar from in tight, but 2-0 is how things remained heading into the second intermission.
Third Period: A comeback
At 3:30, the Isles received a power play when Drew Doughty threw a late hit on Cal Clutterbuck after Clutterbuck’s clean check on Trevor Lewis sent the Kings forward awkwardly into the boards. They worked the puck well with the extra man but never got a dangerous look.
But a few minutes later, the Islanders finally broke the seal behind Cam Talbot. After Bo Horvat forced a turnover in the neutral zone, Mat Barzal gained the zone and dropped the puck for Mike Reilly, who unleashed a shot from the left wing; Anders Lee was ready to slam the rebound home to cut the deficit to 2-1.
The Islanders have been spending so many third periods blowing leads that it’s almost weird to see them chasing the game as time winds down. And here they were, with under five minutes left, just a goal away thanks to Lee’s rebound goal.
Time for another.
After a clean offensive zone faceoff win back to Scott Mayfield, Cam Talbot left a fat rebound that Lee, cruising through the slot, put home just inside the far post to tie it at 2-2 with 4:11 to go.
The tie game brought the building alive and brought a nice push from the Isles, but not before a poor Reilly play forced Sorokin to stop a clear-cut breakaway to save the game.
Then the Isles buzzed, Kyle Palmieri hit the post, and they had some other looks before the end of regulation.
Acquired the previous afternoon, Robert Bortuzzo debuted on a pairing with Samuel Bolduc and logged 16:03. (Bolduc, incidentally, logged 18:03, a season high and the fourth-highest total in his young career.)
At age 34 and after 10 seasons in St. Louis, Bortuzzo apparently has enough seniority in the league to hang on to his #41 — or maybe it’s just not that high of a number to make a fuss. “Bortuzzo is the seventh player to wear 41 for the Islanders and first since Nikita Soshnikov.”
Alas, he doesn’t have enough clout to prevent him from having to shave his rather full beard. Hopefully his children recognize him. There are rules, you know — they’re remarkably stupid rules that would be mocked if they were dreamed up by literally any other GM in the league, but hey, Lou won Stanley Cups two and three decades ago, so just accept it and chuckle, “Heh, oh, that Lou.” Tee hee.
The Depleted Blueline
Speaking of Bortuzzo and Bolduc, worth noting and remembering the Isles pulled this one off without Adam Pelech, Ryan Pulock and Sebastian Aho as they patch together their blueline. It has been huge that Noah Dobson is having a really fine, bounce-back season, but everybody chipped in with quality minutes tonight.
Just like that, the six-game homestand is halfway through and the Isles are 2-0-1 thus far. Next up is the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night.