Anders Lee scored twice and J.F. Berube made 34 saves as the New York Islanders downed the Los Angeles Kings 4-2 at Barclays Center Saturday night. The win was the third straight for the Islanders who are now 2-0-0 under interim coach Doug Weight. More importantly for the Isles, the team seems to be responding, at least in the short term, to the coaching change.
“It feels really good,” Lee said after the game. “Right now we’ve got the momentum and we’ve got to keep that going.”
Ironically, the Islanders led 2-0 after two periods despite being outplayed by the Kings for most of the first 40 minutes. Strong goaltending by J.F. Berube, making his first start since Jaroslav Halak was sent down to Bridgeport, was the key to the Isles early lead.
“Berube kind of saved our bacon in the first period,” winger Jason Chimera said. “We didn’t play very good in front of him and he deserved that win tonight.”
The Islanders broke out on top just 2:30 into the game on a strange goal by Chimera. The speedy winger beat Kings starter Peter Budaj on a very easy shot that the goalie misplayed. The puck bounced off Budaj’s mask and trickled into the net.
“I’ll probably never score a goal like that again,” Chimera admitted. “I just tried to get it on net and get something going. We didn’t have any shots at that point. You just try to throw something on net and see what happens. It was a fluky goal but we’ll take it.”
The Kings controlled the tempo in the first period and outshot the Isles 14-8 but the Isles led 1-0 at first intermission.
Lee added to the Islanders lead at 7:09 of the second period when he scored the first of his two power-play goals of the night. Lee was in front of the net and was able to put home the rebound of a shot by John Tavares to make it a 2-0 game.
The Islanders slowed the Kings down a bit more in the second period but were still outshot 13-10. Despite their struggles, the home team held a 2-0 lead after 40 minutes.
The Kings fought back and scored twice in the first 4:06 of the third period to tie the game at 2-2. First Jeff Carter scored his 24th goal of the season on a power play just 37 seconds into the final stanza. Then Drew Doughty tied it with a shot from the point at 4:06 that Berube was unable to see because of the traffic in front of the Isles net.
Instead of being discouraged by the Los Angeles comeback, the Islanders regrouped and played their best hockey of the game in the remaining 16:00 of the contest. They outshot the Kings 18-7 the rest of the way and took the lead on Lee’s second power play goal of the game at 9:31. Again, the big forward was in front of the net and redirected a shot by Nick Leddy past Budaj.
“I’m just trying to take away the goalie’s eyes and I try to take a defenseman with me,” Lee said. “I try to create havoc and let the skill guys do their thing up top and I’ll do my thing down low.”
Tavares clinched the win with an empty-net power play goal in the final minute to extend the Islanders winning streak to three games.
There is a different feeling in the dressing room now under Weight and the team seems to be more relaxed and confident.
The Islanders don’t have a lot of time to savor their win. They return to action Sunday evening at 6:00 PM when they host the Philadelphia Flyers at Barclays Center.
Official attendance was 15,138.
The Islanders hope to have Cal Clutterbuck and Johnny Boychuk back in the lineup tomorrow vs. Philadelphia. Weight indicated Andrew Ladd may be available by Tuesday.
The Isles are now 20-2-3 all-time at Barclays Center against Western Conference opponents.
Anders Lee now has a point in four consecutive games for the Islanders.