LOS ANGELES — Before the Islanders stumbled through overtime on Tuesday night in Anaheim, before the epic and controversial 14-round shootout and victory over the Ducks, there were positive signs of change in their play.
Notably with their power play, a moribund enterprise so far season. Josh Bailey’s one-timer converted the Isles’ first power-play chance and they were a force on their remaining four unsuccessful man advantages, throwing 17 shots on Jonathan Bernier in 9:25 of total power-play time.
“We felt like we should’ve had a couple more,” said Bailey, who played a strong game and led the Isles with six shots on goal. “It’s definitely something to build off of for the power play. We made a lot of good plays, felt like we came away a little short, quite honestly.”
They were looking to bring that sense of urgency and desperation for a second straight night after driving up the I-5 from Anaheim to face the Kings on Wednesday night. The need to be strong on the forecheck and energetic in the offensive zone, which the Islanders were for longer stretches on Tuesday than they’d been in their previous 10 games, was even greater with a heavy Kings team waiting on the second night of a back-to-back.
The Isles could also do without an early bad penalty and an early goal against as happened again on Tuesday. Anthony Beauvillier, elevated to play alongside Bailey and John Tavares, hooked down Hampus Lindholm in the Ducks end just 38 seconds in.
Just 26 seconds after that the Isles surrendered a power-play goal for the 11th time in 13 games. Cam Fowler’s slap shot changed directions off Cal Clutterbuck’s skate and past Thomas Greiss. That marked the 13th time in the Isles’ 18 games they’d allowed the opening goal.
“You’ve got no choice other than turn the page,” Bailey said. “It’s a tough bounce, tough break to start the game but we got back to work right away.”
Bailey’s work on the forecheck helped set up Adam Pelech’s first NHL goal later in the first before Tavares’ pretty feed to Bailey put the Isles in front.
They gave away the lead in the third period once again to let the game get to OT, and Greiss’ seven saves in the five-minute session were all highlight reel as the Isles couldn’t figure out what to do in their own end at 3 on 3.
Thomas Hickey’s review-aided goal in the 12th round of the shootout prolonged matters and sent the Ducks bench into a rage — Anaheim GM Bob Murray was yelling epithets outside the officials’ room after the game. Nick Leddy won it in the 14th round, a desperately needed two points for the Islanders who remained in last in the East but at least saw some good work rewarded, particularly Bailey.
“Just the ability to be in constant motion all over the ice,” Jack Capuano said of Bailey’s best attribute on Tuesday. “Not just on the power play goal, having awareness in the D zone, his first three/last three strides to the puck. I just want to see him be consistent in those areas. If he is, he’s going to continue to help our team.”