LOS ANGELES — Was it the failed attempt to get the puck out of their own end, where the Islanders had three forwards lined up near their own blue line and two Kings managed to keep the puck in by an inch and set up a glorious scoring chance?
Was it the borderline hooking call on Nick Leddy to negate that scoring chance just inside of five minutes to go in a tie game?
Or was it the seeing-eye shot, a double-deflection off Trevor Lewis’ stick and Dwight King’s skate that snapped a tie at 1 with 2:53 left and sent the Isles to another crushing defeat, this one a 4-2 final?
“Everything,” Anders Lee said. “It’s everything.”
There are fewer and fewer answers inside the Isles locker room anymore and more glassy-eyed looks after games like Wednesday’s, where the team played a strong third period on the second night of a back-to-back set and pulled even on Lee’s hard-earned rebound goal 4:27 into the third.
But that sequence with five minutes left, when Travis Hamonic chipped a puck along the wall, Jason Chimera missed batting it out of the zone and Jake Muzzin tap-danced along the line with three Islanders within stick-check distance to whip a pass down to Tyler Toffoli alone in front of Jaroslav Halak, was the table-setter.
Leddy got his stick under Toffoli’s to prevent a good shot and hooking was called. The Isles had the minor essentially killed when Lewis and King worked the puck from below the goal line out to Derek Forbort, who had time and space to send a shot that hit off both Kings forwards and in.
“I feel like the first 15 minutes of the third was a pretty good period by us,” Hamonic said. “We can’t shake our heads or feel sorry for ourselves. It’s not going to change anything.”
The goals piled up quickly after the tiebreaker. King scored again off the rush 25 seconds later, followed 19 seconds after that by Muzzin into an empty net. Lee scored his second of the night 17 seconds later and that was all, the Islanders having allowed a game-tying or game-deciding goal in the final three minutes of regulation for the seventh time in 19 games.
And this one, like three others before, left the point-desperate Isles empty-handed.
“You have to find a way to get it to OT,” Andrew Ladd said.
That’s not exactly an inspiring rally cry, but with the Isles sitting in last in the East, three points back of the 15th-place Sabres, they need points to even think about climbing up the ladder and to try and lift the malaise that’s settled over their heads.
“Disappointing, obviously,” John Tavares said. “This is one of the toughest back-to-backs in the league and we came in and worked hard to get back in it . . . Disappointing result.”
There is no drawing board to go back to. The Islanders head to San Jose on Thanksgiving needing a win to keep their slim hopes alive for another week, but the fragility of a team that’s given up points in the closing minutes of nearly 40 percent of their games seems beyond measure at this point.
“Whether you shake your head or say screw it, you have to keep going,” Hamonic said. “You have to find a way to move forward. We’ve got no choice.”