UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- It's one thing to take a third-period lead. It's entirely another thing to hold a third-period lead.
Too often last season, the Kings did the former but not the latter. A young team froze under the pressure of trying to keep a late lead, a major reason why the team sunk to the bottom of the Western Conference.
So far, things are much different this season.
For the fourth consecutive game, the Kings held a one-goal lead in the third period and won. This time, they edged the feisty New York Islanders 2-1 on Monday afternoon before 12,145 at Nassau Coliseum.
The Kings improved to 4-1, their best start to a season since the Stanley Cup Finals year of 1992-93. The season-long six-game road trip continues Wednesday against the New York Rangers.
As they did two nights prior in St. Louis, the Kings had to survive a third-period flurry. Anze Kopitar scored a second-period goal, and Drew Doughty scored 5:31 into the third period, but former Kings forward Matt Moulson scored with 1:55 remaining to set up another tight finish.
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick (28 saves) held firm late, Sean O'Donnell made a huge clear late and the Kings held on for their fourth consecutive victory.
``Last year we blew, I don’t know, 20 games, with the lead in the third,'' Kopitar said. ``In four straight now, we’ve held onto it. I think, for sure, we’re taking a step in the right direction.
``You can just feel it – or at least I do – on the bench, even when they score on us with three minutes left, everybody’s head was cool and we were making plays throughout the game, right until the end.
``The thing is, you’re doing it for 40 minutes, so you can obviously do (well) for 20 more, but there are times when the hands seize up and you have a little brain fart or something, but we’re improving in that area for sure. It’s a big part of our hockey club right now.''
Kopitar, Doughty and Ryan Smyth each had one point for the Kings, and each player now has scored at least one point in each of the Kings' first five games.
The Islanders were stronger in the first period, as they outshot the Kings 11-4, but Quick made some strong saves to keep the game scoreless.
Quick apparently likes the road. He won two of the first three games at home but didn't appear completely sharp. In the past two games, he has consistently made tough saves throughout the game. Quick supported his teammates early, and they put a couple goals on the board for him later.
``We’ve got all the confidence in Jon back there, that he’s going to stop the puck,'' Kopitar said. ``It’s give and take in this business. Sometimes we help him out, sometimes he helps us out.
``I thought he did an outstanding job tonight too. It’s not like he didn’t make a lot of saves before, but especially tonight, especially in the first period, they had some good chances and he stood on his head and kept us in it.''
Kopitar broke the scoreless tie with 1:17 remaining in the second period and the Kings on the power. The Kings are now 7 for 21 on the power play and have scored at least one power-play goal in every game.
Kopitar controlled the puck behind the net, then pushed it ahead to Justin Williams in the left faceoff circle. Williams dropped it back for Kopitar, who took advantage of some traffic in front and beat Biron with a high shot.
Kopitar has four goals and six assists in the first five games. Williams got an assist (his fourth of the season), as did Smyth, who played another strong all-around game and assisted on the goal and has four goals and four assists.
Then, 5:31 into the third, Doughty helped create his own play on the eventual game-winner. He carried the puck into the neutral zone, then pushed it ahead for Jarret Stoll up the left side of the offensive zone.
Stoll looked up, saw Doughty will some space at the top of the right circle, and made a strong pass. Doughty, with room, ripped a slap shot past Martin Biron for a 2-0 Kings lead 5:31 into the third period.
Doughty played 19 minutes, 21 seconds, just two days after he suffered broken front teeth after being hit in the face by a puck. Doughty's only concession to the injury was a face shield to protect his mouth.
``Doughty, to me, is a real hockey player,'' coach Terry Murray said. ``There was no way he was going to miss any time. He’s always, `I’m fine, I’m good, I’m ready to go,’ with that attitude all the time, and he ends up playing a good game and scoring what ends up being the game-winning goal. Just a great effort by a young guy.
Doughty, perhaps making Murray's point for him, said he didn't feel much pain.
``I feel fine,'' Doughty said. ``It’s not going to affect my game at all. I have to wear the bubble (shield) but that’s about it. It doesn’t affect my game. It’s just a couple bumps and bruises and that’s it.''
To follow up on some familiar themes, the Kings 3 for 3 on the penalty kill and have now killed 10 consecutive opponents' power plays, after starting the season 2 for 9 on the penalty kill.
The Kings continued to struggle in the faceoff circle, and lost 29 of 52 draws, but Stoll, who has been struggling in the circle this season, won 10 of his 18 faceoffs.