The Islanders finally got the response they needed after the Western Conference-worst Kings frustrated them deep into the third period Saturday night. And Mathew Barzal and his linemates played a crucial role in the rally after a subpar outing limited their ice time in the first two periods.
“We kept staying with it,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “Instead of getting discouraged, we got determined. To me, that’s a sign of growth for us.”
With three goals late in the third period, the Islanders extended their point streak to a season-high eight games (6-0-2) with a 4-2 win before a crowd of 13,917, the sixth sellout in nine games at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum. It’s their longest point streak since they went 8-0-2 from Nov. 25-Dec. 13, 2015.
The Metropolitan Division-leading Islanders (30-15-6) — now 8-0-0 in the second game of back-to-back sets — avoided a huge letdown after Friday night’s 1-0 shootout loss to the NHL-best Lightning at the Coliseum.
“They’re big points,” defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. “Every point is big. When we’re down 2-1 in the third with less than 10 minutes left, you’ve got to bear down and do the right things, and we got rewarded for it.”
Rookie Michael Dal Colle tipped defenseman Ryan Pulock’s shot from the right point and scored the winner at 17:37 of the third period — “I haven’t been that excited in a long time,” Dal Colle said after his second NHL goal — and Brock Nelson added an empty-netter at 18:29.
Robin Lehner made 34 saves for the Islanders and Jonathan Quick stopped 28 shots for the Kings (20-27-4), who were playing for the first time since Jan. 21.
Ilya Kovalchuk redirected Dustin Brown’s shot to give the Kings a 2-1 lead at 13:15 of the third period, but Barzal converted Pulock’s feed to make it 2-2 only 31 seconds later.
“Their first two periods weren’t a great game, in my opinion, and they responded,” Trotz said.
He thought the trio had stopped working hard through the first two periods and were relying on their skills. “The top players in the league have to fight for their inches,” he said.
“They take the lead like that, but you have a good shift and it gets you going,” said Pulock, who had three assists.
Casey Cizikas made it 1-0 at 6:09 of the first period. He established position just above the crease and used his skate to move the rebound of Boychuk’s shot to his forehand.
The Islanders took eight of the game’s first nine shots, but Anze Kopitar redirected Alex Iafallo’s feed to the right post off a two-on-one rush to tie the score at 1 at 8:07 of the first period.
That marked the first five-on-five goal the Islanders had allowed since Andy Greene’s goal at 7:07 of the third period in a 4-1 win over the Devils at the Coliseum on Jan. 17. The Islanders followed that with shutouts over the Capitals and Ducks and allowed two power-play goals in a 3-2 shootout loss at Chicago on Jan. 22 before their break.
Lehner, named the NHL’s second star of the month for January, continued his strong play in the second period, particularly as he smothered Kovalchuk’s chance at the right post at 14:17 after Quick stopped Matt Martin up ice.
Lehner might have been at his best in stopping four shots, two by Kovalchuk, after Anders Lee was called for tripping at 4:50 of the third period.