BROOKLYN - The Los Angeles Kings got their road trip off to a blazing start with a 9-2 thumping of the Boston Bruins on Tuesday. Two days later, the Kings visited Barclay Center for the first time and faced a New York Islanders squad that had outscored their last two opponents by a combined score of 11-3.
The momentum simply didn’t carry over for Los Angeles, as New York took advantage of the visitors' slow start. The Islanders pounced on some lackluster defense in the first period to build a 3-0 lead before closing out the Kings, 5-2, to extend their winning streak to three games and share fourth place in the East with the Detroit Red Wings and Bruins.
Veteran defenseman Johnny Boychuk got the scoring started 6:05 minutes into the game. Goals would follow from center Casey Cizikas and a power-play score by Anders Lee by the first intermission.
Los Angeles became more aggressive in the second period, and received a goal from Kyle Clifford. The boost was shortlived, though, as Islanders captain John Tavares made it 4-1 at the end of the second period behind a fine shot past goalie Jhonas Enroth, who was filling in for regular starter Jonathan Quick. Tavares also had an assist.
Milan Lucic kept it interesting midway through the third period after rebounding a shot by Jeff Carter that appeared to deflect in off Lucic's skate and stick. But Travis Hamonic ended any hope of a Kings comeback by scoring a shorthanded goal into an empty net with 3:25 left.
The victory could serve as a boost for the Islanders with less than 30 games remaining in the regular season. The Kings have the third best betting odds to win the Stanley Cup (13/2) while the Islanders are No. 13 at 22/1.
"[The Kings are] one of the best teams in the league and have been for the last couple of years. There's a reason why they're a winning team and to beat them was a good test for us. Now we have to just put it behind us and look forward to our next game," said Boychuk.
The defense was certainly there for New York, as the Kings failed to score on three power-play chances. The Islanders entered the game as the No. 2 penalty killing team in the NHL at 86.8 percent.
There was also solid play from the netminder. Islanders head coach Jack Capuano elected to go with Thomas Greiss over Jaroslav Halak in goal and the decision paid off. The 30-year-old had 28 saves against one of the best scoring teams in hockey.
Halak entered the matchup having dropped eight straight starts against the Kings with a 3.07 goals-against average. However, at Barclays Center, Halak owns an 8-5-1 mark with a 2.15 goals-against average.
Quick played the full 60 minutes against Boston, but did not participate in Wednesday's practice after a collision against the Bruins left him with a lower back injury. Quick is listed as day-to-day, as Enroth got ice time for the first time in one week.
"We kind of left our goalie out to dry. I thought [Enroth] played a good game. We weren't happy with the beginning there," said Kings star defenseman Drew Doughty. "We can't start out games likes that. You're not going to win games in the NHL when you go down [3-0]. That's why we lost."
Doughty claims the Kings can bounce back from this loss with another tough test looming Friday against the New York Rangers in their seven-game road trip. The Rangers own the third-best record in the Eastern Conference.
"Morale is good. Sucks coming in here and losing a game to the Islanders, but we got another one tomorrow. We got to forget about it right away, maybe learn from some of those mistakes we made.
"The Rangers are a good team. They're high up in their conference and their division. It's a must we get back on track as soon as possible. "
The Kings could perhaps use a lift from center Anze Kopitar. The nine-year veteran has not scored a goal in nine straight games.
Up next for the Islanders is a one-game trip on Saturday to face the Carolina Hurricanes. Despite the win over L.A., Capuano was quick to point out areas of improvement.
"We had some serious breakdowns here tonight," Capuano said. "I thought midway through the second and the third, it just seemed certain guys weren't moving their feet.
"I don't know if certain guys were fatigued tonight, tired mentally with some of the games we've played and the travel."