Islanders show they are missing pieces in home loss to Kings
The Islanders looked very much like a team missing some key forwards, allowing Kings goalie Jonathan Quick to vaguely resemble his prime despite his struggles this season.
It turned into a potentially costly 3-2 loss on Friday night at UBS Arena as the Islanders, who fell behind by three goals in the second period, had their winning streak snapped at two games and their precarious playoff position made even more precarious.
“We’ve had a few moments like that throughout the course of the season where a team scores a goal and we allow the momentum swing to be too big,” Matt Martin said.
The Islanders (30-25-7) still hold the Eastern Conference’s first wild-card spot. But the Sabres, who moved into the second wild-card spot, just three points back, have played five fewer games. The Red Wings also are three points behind the Islanders with five games in hand.
“I think every team is in the same situation this time of year,” said defenseman Noah Dobson, who brought the Islanders within 3-1 at 16:34 of the second period with the team’s first power-play goal in the four games since Mathew Barzal suffered a lower-body injury (suspected to be a knee injury).
“All the games are important and the games are magnified. But the reality is it’s hard to win 20-some games in a row.”
The Islanders also are playing without injured forwards Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Josh Bailey, not to mention the long-term absences of Oliver Wahlstrom and Cal Clutterbuck.
The Kings limited the Islanders to 18 shots on Quick, who improved his still-bloated goals-against average to 3.44 and his subpar save percentage to .879.
“They made it very difficult for us on the forecheck,” coach Lane Lambert said. “I thought we didn’t dump the puck good enough. That was part of it. If we would have put our dumps in better areas, we would have had a better chance of getting it back.”
The Islanders’ Ilya Sorokin stopped 25 shots from the Kings (33-19-8), who were coming off a 4-3 overtime road loss to the Devils on Thursday night in which they allowed Nico Hischier’s equalizer in the final minute of regulation.
The Islanders did make Quick and the Kings sweat out the final minutes.
Defenseman Adam Pelech, rushing the puck up ice, flung a backhander toward the crease that deflected in off Kings defenseman Matt Roy at 15:23 of the third period to make it 3-2.
“At this point in the season and where we are in the standings, they are all big, emotional games,” Kyle Palmieri said.
Phillip Danault opened the scoring at 6:40 of the second period as he battled Islanders defenseman Alexander Romanov at the left post. The puck hit off Danault, off Sorokin and off Danault again, and it also might have hit Romanov’s stick before popping over the goalie.
Fourth-liner Arthur Kaliyev converted Rasmus Kupari’s feed on a two-on-one to make it 2-0 at 8:05 after Islanders defenseman Sebastian Aho could not contain the puck at the opposing blue line.
Gabriel Vilardi, wide open in the slot, knuckled in a one-timer to push the lead to 3-0 at 12:14.
Quick, who led the Kings to Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014, showed off some of his noted flexibility as he went into a split to deny Martin at the crease off Bo Horvat’s feed at 6:52 of the first period. He also denied Horvat’s initial shot and Martin’s attempt off a long rebound at 3:20 of the second period before the Kings started scoring.
Both teams had good defensive structure through a low-event first period.
The Kings kept theirs. The Islanders’ structure fell apart just long enough to cost them the game.