Recap, New York Islanders @ Los Angeles Kings: 44 Seconds in Heaven

After 57 minutes of battling, LA breaks through for their fourth straight win.

It happened so suddenly, even the media outlets covering the game couldn’t quite grasp what was going on.

Nope, ESPN.

Double nope,

OK, ESPN got the right goal-scorers, and they eventually fixed the times, but still. Let’s spell it out and avoid the confusion:

Dwight King scored the go-ahead goal with 2:53 to go, tipping in a Derek Forbort shot. He scored again 25 seconds later. Then Muzzin, with the empty netter, 19 seconds after that. All clear? Cool, let’s go over everything again!

[Box Score]

It was a classic Kings game for about 40 minutes. As so often happens, LA got on the board through a shot by a defenseman; this time it was Alec Martinez, getting a point for the fourth straight game. He got the puck off the boards after an errant shot by Jake Muzzin, who was credited with the first assist; only the Kings would assist on a shot from the blueline with another shot from the blueline. (This made the secondary assist from Anze Kopitar one of the weakest credited assists I’ve seen in my life, but I’ll keep my mouth shut about it if you will.)

That first period goal was bookended by long stretches of commanding play from the Kings, who were a rested squad playing a team that endured 65 minutes and a 14-round shootout last night. It was the least that could be expected from the Kings after two days off, and even Peter Budaj looked spry in his 18th straight start. Budaj made a couple of solid stops, but he didn’t have too much to do; unfortunately, one of the only times he let a rebound go, Anders Lee managed to shovel it into the net while facing the wrong way without a helmet. Tip your cap on that one. Or your helmet, unless it fell off, like Anders Lee’s did.

So with about 15 minutes to go, LA was left ruing some of the excellent chances they had earlier, like when a puck skipped off the stanchion straight to Kyle Clifford in front,  which would have been an easy goal had Clifford not been losing his balance while jostling an Islander. It wasn’t just bad luck, though; Jaroslav Halak, who’s in the midst of a remarkably inconsistent stretch in goal, had the glove hand working, and robbed Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli on a handful of point-blank opportunities.

At that point, King and friends stepped up. And check out who was on the ice for that go-ahead goal:

That’s King, Forbort, Trevor Lewis (who assisted on both of King’s goals), Kevin Gravel, and Nick Shore. They entered tonight with 20 combined points through 20 games, and left with 25. As a second unsuccessful third period power play wound down, Darryl Sutter put grinders on the ice and got rewarded. Or, in his words:

Forbort is supposed to get it through to the net, somebody is supposed to get in front of the net.

All according to plan. Before it was clear that King had gotten the tip, though, he’d scored again; Drew Doughty drove into the zone and fed Trevor Lewis, and Lewis went below the goal line as he so often does. This time, he had a man in front: King!

Dwight tapped it in, making him perhaps the first player ever to score his 101st career NHL point before anyone knew he’d already hit 100 points. Before either of those two goals could be announced, Jake Muzzin scored his second empty-net goal in three games, and Lee scored another goal with Budaj spinning in his crease. Budaj still finished with a save percentage above 90% for the sixth straight time, and the Kings still ran the clock down easily, as PA announcer Dave Joseph made a rapid-fire announcement of those four goals.

Toffoli, Carter, and Tanner Pearson were probably the best forward line and Muzzin and Martinez were probably the best defensive pairing, but it was tough to take issue with anyone’s performance. LA got a well-rounded showing, got back into playoff position, and will happily take a day off. Happy Thanksgiving!