The New York Islanders watched a 2-0 lead slip away in the third period and fell to the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 at the Nassau Coliseum Thursday.
For 40 minutes, the New York Islanders did everything their coach always preaches: they were smart with the puck, got some quality scoring chances and made their opponents play a “200-foot game.” But in the third period, the Kings played with desperation and dominated play and the Islanders watched their lead and two points in the standings slip away.
“We’ve got to get the message through our head about what it takes to win on a consistent basis against good hockey teams,” a frustrated John Tavares said after the game. “Whether you’ve got a lead or not, when you’re playing well and things are going your way, we need more complete games and we’ve got to be better as a team.”
For the first two periods, the Islanders were better. While the first period was scoreless, the Islanders oft-maligned defense did an excellent job of containing the Kings’ large and skilled forwards, especially after the first few minutes of the game. The opening stanza ended in a scoreless tie.
The second period was 0ne of the best that the Isles have played all season. They limited the Kings to just five shots on goal by playing smart, positional defense, making safe plays in their own zone and forechecking aggressively to keep the puck in the Los Angeles end for several long stretches at a time.For the period, the Islanders outshot the Kings 15-5.
Casey Cizikas broke the scoreless tie just 2:44 into the middle period when he scored his first goal of the season. The play was set up by an aggressive forecheck by the Isles. Ben Scrivens started in goal for the Kings in place of the injured Jonathan Quick. He and his defensemen had trouble controlling a rebound and Cizikas grabbed it and backhanded it into the open net.
“We got the puck in deep and we started taking the body. The puck kind of poked past the skates of the two guys in front and came to the back door. My eyes kind of lit up. He [Scrivens] just got a glove on it and my heart kind of sank but it’s a relief to get that first one.”
The Islanders took a 2-0 lead at 4:58 on Aaron Ness’ first career NHL goal. Ness scored on a one-timer from between the circles set up by a pinpoint pass by Tavares.
“The puck rimmed around the wall there, I jumped into the play and Okie [Kyle Okposo] had a forecheck going on that guy and got by him,” Ness explained. “Johnny [Tavares] got it and made an unbelievable pass. All I had to do was slap it in.”
In the third period, however, the tone of the game changed quickly. The Islanders started the period with a power play that was carried over from the end of the second period but failed to convert. Then, the Kings started controlling the tempo of the game and getting scoring chances.
Brad Richards came in on a partial breakaway and tried to go five-hole on Kevin Poulin who was starting this third consecutive game. Poulin, who played well in the first two periods, closed his pads and made the save. A few minutes later, Poulin showed off his quick glove hand and stopped a shot by Jake Muzzin from the point.
Poulin’s luck ran out 5:34 into the third period when defenseman Slava Voynov snuck in from the point and beat Poulin to the short-side to cut the home team’s lead to 2-1.
The Kings tied it on a power play goal by Tanner Pearson at 12:15. His wrist shot from the right circle eluded Poulin’s glove and barely slid over the goal line. Poulin grabbed the puck but video review showed the puck had fully crossed the line before the goalie got to it and the game was all tied 2-2.
The Kings continued to pressure the Islanders with an aggressive forecheck and got the game winner with just 1:27 left on the clock. Tyler Toffoli deflected a shot by Muzzin over Poulin’s shoulder and just under the cross bar.
It was a frustrating loss for an Islanders team that did so much right in the first two periods and is trying to get back into the thick of the playoff race in the Metropolitan Division.
“We stopped moving our feet. We stopped doing the things that were making us successful: getting pucks in, being hard on them, taking away their time and space,” Tavares said. “We seemed to grip our sticks tight. We talked about going after them and getting that next goal, but we just weren’t good enough in all areas of our game.”
The Islanders return to action Saturday night when they host the Detroit Red Wings at the Coliseum.
Official attendance was 13,922
The Islanders were without Thomas Vanek who may be available Saturday against Detroit.
John Tavares played despite suffering a lower-body injury Tuesday against the Predators. He was clearly not at full strength but still played 22:46 and picked up an assist.
Matt Carkner and Jordan Nolan had a fight early in the game. Nolan is the son of former Isles coach (and current Sabres’ interim coach) Ted Nolan.