Kings beat Islanders for a New York-area sweep
Kings center Anze Kopitar and his linemates put on something of a clinic in the offensive zone, an impressive show of possession late in the third period.
Such a stretch of domination often results in a goal, via the Kopitar-Marian Gaborik connection. This time, the Kopitar chemistry clicked with defenseman Andrej Sekera and resulted in Kopitar’s game-winning goal with 4:23 remaining, giving the Kings a 3-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday night.
“We were in their zone for quite a bit and I guess we had the eye contact with Andrej and he was able to fire it at my stick,” said Kopitar, who redirected the shot for his 16th goal of the season. “At that point you’re just trying to tip something toward the net, and it worked out.”
That’s the modest version of a memorable night at Nassau Coliseum.
Said Sekera: “They’re skilled guys and when you give them the space and time they’ll make plays. You could see that on the play.... We got the opportunity and we put the puck in.”
The Kings’ final regular-season game here — the Islanders are moving to Brooklyn next season — was an eventful, fast-paced contest that put them back in a playoff position. They moved past idle Calgary to take third-place in the Pacific Division by a point and are 3-0-0 on this five-game trip.
Your move, Flames.
Calgary could retake third place after Friday night’s game at Minnesota, and Kopitar acknowledged the tightness of the race.
“The focus is not going to be any different than it was leading into this road trip,” Kopitar said. “Everybody is fighting for a playoff spot. We might lose that playoff spot tomorrow. We’ve got to keep pace and keep winning games.”
The once road-challenged Kings are putting it together away from Staples Center, possibly just in time. They are 6-0-1 in their last seven road games and finish this trip with games at Minnesota and Chicago. There are eight games remaining for the Kings.
They’ve swept the New York-area teams on the road in back-to-back seasons, with Jonathan Quick in goal for all three games this time. Kings forward Tyler Toffoli scored his 22nd goal of the season, his league-leading fifth short-handed goal. Defenseman Alec Martinez added two assists.
Last season, Tanner Pearson scored his first NHL goal here, at Nassau Coliseum, and this year it was Nick Shore’s turn for the Kings.
For Shore, it was his first goal in 28 NHL games, coming off a fine effort by Dustin Brown. Brown’s shot went off Shore’s skate past Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak at 10:37 of the second period, tying it, 1-1.
“It feels good any time you score a goal,” said Shore, who won eight of nine faceoffs. “Most important, we came out with a 3-2 win.”
His teammates were visibly excited for him afterward.
“We’re all happy for him,” Toffoli said, smiling. “I think we’re little relieved for him.… [We thought] he was never going to score.”
The last time the Kings had a player with five short-handed goals in a season was when Pavol Demitra did it in the 2005-06 season. Toffoli also leads the league with six short-handed points. His goal, on a two-on-one with Jeff Carter, made it 2-1 at 1:55 of the third period, but the Islanders promptly tied it on the power play when defenseman Johnny Boychuk scored at 3:31.
“Their weak-side guy was putting pressure on Muzz [Jake Muzzin],” Toffoli said of his goal. “And then Muzz just chipped it out. I think it was [John] Tavares who tried to cut me off and Carts made a good play slowing down, put the puck on net and it was an open net [for me].”
Go beyond the scoreboard
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