Things got worse before they got better for the Los Angeles Kings in their showdown with the New York Islanders. On the bright side, things did get better, albeit in an incredibly tense fashion. The Kings not only had to tie things up late, on the road, in the second half of a back-to-back, they had to survive the most dangerous of situations: a video review.
It was a heroic late effort, if only because the previous 17 minutes had put the Kings in a position to need that late heroism. Let’s not skip over LA’s great start, though. The Kings came out firing and very much controlled the opening period aside from a dangerous New York Islanders power play opportunity, which came just 71 seconds into the game after an Adrian Kempe penalty. Darcy Kuemper, starting the day after Jonathan Quick’s defeat against the other “New York” team, made five saves on that one penalty kill alone, and he kept things scoreless until LA got back on their feet. From there, they managed to once again get an early handle on zone time, but unlike against the Rangers, they made it count.
Oscar Fantenberg’s shot might not have been a threatening one if LA hadn’t thrown five other pucks at Thomas Greiss in the preceding minute. The fifth, off Fantenberg’s stick, went wide, but Tanner Pearson retrieved the puck and sent it back to Fantenberg, with Kempe letting the pass through. Fantenberg wound up and got decent wood on his shot, and he got his second goal of the season for his troubles. (His family was in attendance... nice touch.) Tyler Toffoli followed up with a goal on the power play, and to give you an idea of how atypical a power play goal it was, Kuemper actually got the second assist:
The Islanders’ goaltending has been horrendous this season, but LA didn’t manage to get the same caliber of chances they got in the first 20 minutes. By the tally of Natural Stat Trick, LA only had three high danger chances in the second and third period combined, after notching seven in the first. By comparison, the Islanders had nine in the opening frame, and followed it up with seven more in the second period alone. Somehow, only one of these 16 beat Kuemper, and it was poorly timed. As the first period wound down, Josh Bailey deflected a shot which was headed well wide, and the change in direction was basically impossible to stop. The 2-1 score ensured that the Islanders were very much in it, and though they didn’t score in the second, LA was clearly hanging on.
The third period saw the Islanders tie it up after Cal Clutterbuck took an “elbow” to the “head” from Jake Muzzin. John Tavares got the puck on his stick 25 seconds into the PP off a flubbed shot, and definitely did not flub his shot. From there, the Kings did a better job of controlling scoring chances against and survived their fifth (and final) PK, but New York stayed on top in the shooting department, and Anders Lee converted from close range to (apparently) hand LA another late-game defeat. Anze Kopitar and the Kings had something to say about that though.
Kopitar was seconds away from his third consecutive pointless game, which would have made for his longest drought of the season, but instead his desperate efforts sent the game to overtime. Greiss and coach Doug Weight were among the aggrieved parties when the goal stood after a video review, but Toronto didn’t see anything which could overturn the call of a goal, and the puck appeared loose enough to counter the argument that Kopitar pushed the pads of the goalie in.
Kopitar almost got the game-winner at the start of overtime after John Tavares slipped, but Greiss managed to get his pad on the resulting shot (and didn’t have to deal with guys pushing at him) to extend the game. And when the Islanders got an equally good chance, Jordan Eberle’s shot was perfect, giving New York the two points they thought they’d already earned.
LA salvaged a point. Can they salvage two against Philly to make it a tolerable trip? We’ll find out soon.