Kings suffer loss of confidence in defeat by Islanders in overtime
Technically, it will go down as a point in the standings.
Specifically, it was a point earned with seconds left in regulation Saturday. But the state of the Kings was measured psychologically by Anze Kopitar following a 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Islanders.
“I just think we’re not a confident group right now,” Kopitar said. “We’re more playing not to lose than we are to win. We got to turn that around.”
Kopitar spoke with weariness even though his goal with 13 seconds remaining in regulation allowed the Kings to walk out of Barclays Center with something tangible. That point is their only one earned on this trip, and it happened after the Kings lost a 2-0 lead, then the game, when Jordan Eberle scored on a two-on-one at 3:06 of overtime. The Kings mostly spent the final 40 minutes of regulation giving the Islanders power plays, and Kopitar and Dustin Brown shouldered much of that time in their own end.
“Kopi and Brownie ended up getting taxed — extra minutes there,” Kings coach John Stevens said. “Certainly penalties played a big part. They got a dangerous power play. It gave them some momentum, [and] even when they don’t score, they get opportunities.”
Kopitar and the Kings still found fight. Kopitar stuffed the puck in under Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss to make it 3-3 in the dying seconds of regulation, in a controversial play that was reviewed for goalie interference.
In the Kings’ eyes, it shouldn’t have reached that juncture. They built a two-goal lead on scores by Oscar Fantenberg and Tyler Toffoli, only to have the Islanders come back with goals by Josh Bailey with 49.3 seconds left in the first period and John Tavares, who one-timed the puck from the right side on the power play. The shot was created by accident because Kopitar prevented Anders Lee from getting to the initial pass, and the puck slid right to Tavares.
“It was an unfortunate bounce,” Kings goalie Darcy Kuemper said. “The [penalty killers] did the right thing — got a stick on the puck in the middle that they’re trying to one-time — and it goes straight across to their other guy.”
More inexplicable was that Lee was left open to backhand the puck over Kuemper for a 3-2 lead with 3:16 to go in regulation. Kopitar said they were in trouble leading up to that because of the penalties.
“That was certainly the case, but sometimes when you have the lead, you pull back, just not really intentional, but you do and it cost us tonight,” Kopitar said.
It hasn’t cost the Kings first place in the Pacific Division. Kuemper is still without a regulation loss at 5-0-3. There was a sentimental note to the game because Fantenberg’s goal happened in front of his father and grandfather, among the 13,087 in attendance.
Stevens was hardly feeling sentimental when relayed Kopitar’s comment about confidence.
“You put the work in, you do the preparation and you go out there and apply yourself,” Stevens said. “It sucks when you lose. That’s the bottom line, so maybe the spirit isn’t what it was when you’re winning hockey games, but … I thought we got some good performances tonight and some performances that need to be better.”
Follow Curtis Zupke on Twitter @curtiszupke
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