LOS ANGELES - Maybe if the Islanders hadn't struggled to score goals for a two-week stretch recently, Thursday night's 2-1 loss to the Kings wouldn't sting as much.
In a few of those six games when the Isles produced only nine goals, they barely had half a dozen scoring chances and were stuck in neutral for too long.
That was far from the case Thursday night. The Islanders failed to convert on a 45-second five-on-three in the third period while they were down a goal, but Brock Nelson and Johnny Boychuk had shots that hit iron after the two-man advantage ended. The Islanders dominated zone time and play over the entire third; the Kings had just six attempted shots toward Jaro Halak and only four shots on goal, none of them dangerous.
But for all that possession and danger, nothing got past Jhonas Enroth (30 saves) or the two pieces of pipe to either side of him.
"It's frustrating, but we're finally starting to play better," Frans Nielsen said. "It stinks losing, but if we keep this up, we're going to win a lot of games."
As they did in San Jose on Tuesday, when the Isles broke through for four goals in a 4-2 win, the Islanders started well. Nelson took an errant pass from the Kings' Nick Shore and snapped one over Enroth's shoulder for a 1-0 Isles lead at 10:41 of the first. But they took three minors in the opening 16:16 and the last bit them.
It didn't take long either.
After Calvin de Haan went to the box for tripping, Anze Kopitar beat Nielsen on the ensuing faceoff and the puck went to Drew Doughty, whose rocket slap shot beat Halak over his right shoulder at 16:23 for a tie game.
The Kings used their size to hound the Islanders early in the second and it was a rare giveaway by Boychuk behind his own net that led to the Islanders falling behind. Boychuk didn't deliver a hard play around the boards while under pressure from Milan Lucic; Jeff Carter intercepted and fed Tyler Toffoli for a shot that Halak stopped.
But Lucic drove the net, got his stick on a rebound and the puck went off Halak, off Boychuk's ankle and over the goal line at 3:28.
The Kings had a strong few minutes after that, outshooting the Islanders 8-3 through nine minutes of the second period. Los Angeles had 16 shots on Halak midway through the game. The Kings had six the rest of the way.
"We've just got to stay with it," Isles coach Jack Capuano said. "It's a frustrating time, but the way we're playing . . . We came into a tough building and played real well against a good team. The guys gave everything they had."
The five-on-three didn't produce much, but Nelson thought he had the tying goal during the following five-on-four when Marek Zidlicky's point shot caromed off the end boards and out front to Nelson. Enroth was nowhere in sight, but Nelson's quick shot slammed off the post and out.
"I thought I had it, tie game right there," Nelson said. "You always want to get a few and we did a lot of good things. You can't dwell on it. We had energy and eventually those are going to go in."