The Kings remained perfect on their current road trip in picking up another crucial victory Thursday evening, beating the New York Islanders 3-2 in their final regular season visit to the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
With the win, the Kings inched back into the Western Conference’s playoff picture, surpassing the Calgary Flames for the Pacific Division’s third and final postseason seed.
Once again, the Kings came out with a lively start, completely controlling and dictating the pace of play during the first period, outshooting the Islanders 15-4. Unfortunately, New York’s Jaroslav Halak denied the Kings of any early goals.
The Islanders opened the scoring just five minutes into the second period when Frans Nielsen beat Jonathan Quick with a shot high to the glove side while on a 3-on-1 rush.
The Kings responded five minutes later to tie the game, Nick Shore scoring his first-career NHL goal. Dustin Brown drove the puck deep into Islanders zone, had firm possession of the puck, and fired a shot into traffic that caromed past Jaroslav Halak off of Shore’s left skate.
“It’s exciting obviously,” Shore remarked in regards to scoring his first NHL goal. “Brownie helped me out there, just to put it off my foot. A lot of credit goes to him there.”
Entering the third period tied at one, Matt Greene was called for a holding infraction less than two minutes into the final frame. Just 12 seconds into their penalty kill, Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli worked together to bury the Kings’ second goal of the evening.
On a two-on-one sequence, Toffoli fed Carter a cross-ice pass. Carter whistled a shot low to the right pad of Halak that bounced out to open ice, and Toffoli was on the spot to shovel home the rebound. For Toffoli, it was his league-leading fifth shorthanded goal of the campaign.
The Islanders, still on the power play, responded immediately to tie the game at two when Johhny Boychuck rifled home a slap shot from the point past Jonathan Quick.
Kopitar left the puck for Alec Martinez atop New York’s zone, and then fled for the front of the net. Martinez found Sekera with a cross-ice pass, who then fired a shot/pass toward Kopitar, who then changed the direction of the puck with a deflection and past Jaroslav Halak.
“There was a lot of motion and I saw there was a little confusion on [ the Islanders’ ] part,” Andrej Sekera said of the sequence on the game-winning goal. “Then Anze got open and I just tried to make the play on him. I tried to fake the shot and do that slap-pass.”
Kopitar’s marker gave the Kings a 3-2 lead with 4:23 to play; the Kings would hang on to that lead to secure the win, their third straight.
Now with 88 points in the standings, the Kings have found themselves back in a playoff position. The Kings surpassed the Calgary Flames for the Pacific Division’s third and final playoff spot.
Thursday night marked the Kings’ 51st and final regular season game at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, which will close following season’s end. They finish with a 20-25-5-1 mark at the Islanders’ home building ever since it opened prior to the 1972-’73 campaign.
Alec Martinez (2A) led all Kings players in points scored (2), Tyler Toffoli in shots taken (5), Dustin Brown in hits delivered (4), Matt Greene in shots blocked (4), and Drew Doughty in minutes played (27:00). Jonathan Quick made 25 saves in the win.
With the win, the Kings’ record improves to 37-23-14; their mark on the road away from STAPLES Center jumps to 15-14-7. The Kings are now 3-0-0 on their current five-game road trip, they’ll play the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night; the puck is slated to drop just after 5:00PM PT at the XCEL Energy Center.