They were down, they rallied, they were up, they were angry and finally, they were winners.
The Islanders have experienced mostly lows of late, but on Saturday, they played a strong game, felt jobbed in the closing seconds of regulation and earned some justice in their minds when Jordan Eberle scored the overtime winner at 1:54.
The 4-3 win over the Kings snapped the Isles’ first two-game regulation losing streak of the season and allowed them to keep pace in the tight Metropolitan Division, where just about everyone seems to gain points every night.
“We played great defensively today, battled hard, outplayed them pretty much the whole game,” said Thomas Greiss, who won for the first time since Nov. 24. Among his 26 saves was a stop on Anze Kopitar’s breakaway in the opening seconds of overtime after John Tavares lost an edge.
The game didn’t start well for Greiss or the Islanders, who fell behind 2-0 on goals by Oscar Fantenberg and Tyler Toffoli. That marked the fifth time in the last seven games that the Islanders gave up the first two goals, and against the Pacific Division-leading Kings, it seemed more problematic than usual.
But Josh Bailey redirected Calvin de Haan’s point shot past Darcy Kuemper with 46.3 seconds left in the first to cut the deficit to 2-1. It gave the Islanders a little better feeling after a decently played period.
“I think it was big just to get rewarded, at least feel better about our first,” Tavares said. “Any time you get a goal late, especially when you’re down, is big.”
After a scoreless second period that included a 24-second five-on-three for the Isles, they broke through in the third on the power play.
Bailey set one up for Anders Lee that Lee misfired on from the high slot. The puck bounced right to Tavares, though, and he fired it home to tie it at 4:15.
That kicked off a dominating third period by the Islanders, who had four lines rotating well and spent most of the period in the Los Angeles end.
In the closing minutes, the Isles grabbed their first lead. Tavares dropped the puck near the blue line for Ryan Pulock, who made a determined rush down the right side that drew two Kings. He passed it to Lee right in front of Kuemper and Lee flipped a backhand under the crossbar for his team-leading 20th goal at 16:44, giving each member of the Isles’ top line a goal and Tavares three points.
“Special line, special group, three special players and they’re rolling,’’ Doug Weight said. “Gotta ride them.”
Almost all the way to a regulation victory. With 13 seconds left, Kopitar jammed a puck under Greiss and over the goal line to tie it. The NHL Situation Room initiated a review and the goal was confirmed, even though Weight saw it as the same play as Monday, when Lee had a goal waved off for pushing Braden Holtby’s pad along with the puck over the line.
“If it’s not a goal for Anders Lee, you can’t tell me it’s any different,” Weight said. “What is the difference in that play, it’s under Thomas’ pad, just like Anders Lee [on Monday], he hits the puck first. It’s almost the same camera angle, just a different color jersey.”
Greiss denied Kopitar in OT and the Isles disrupted a two- on-one to get one of their own, with Mathew Barzal feeding Eberle for the winner.
“I thought the whole night we played well,” Eberle said. “We created chances. Obviously, the score wasn’t leaning our way most of the night, but we stuck with it, found a way to take the lead and ultimately win.”