UNIONDALE, N.Y. – Evgeni Nabokov stole one point for the New York Islanders on Saturday. Mark Streit swiped the other one.
Nabokov stopped 34 of 35 Los Angeles shots during a game in which his team was dominated for most of the final 50 minutes. Streit then scored on a spectacular individual rush with 1:36 gone in overtime to give the Islanders a 2-1 victory at the Nassau Coliseum.
Streit took a pass from Matt Moulson in the neutral zone, wasn’t pressured and took off – splitting four Kings before beating Jonathan Quick with a backhander to get the Islanders back to .500 at 23-23-8.
"I just came off the bench and Matt Moulson was standing at the red line," a smiling Streit said of his game-winner. "He gave me the puck, I just skated toward four of their guys and tried to spread them. I made a little move, cut back and all of a sudden I was in front of the goalie and decided to score. It’s one I’m going to remember."
It was the second time this week that Nabokov has stolen a win for the Isles. They were outshot 45-18 in Philadelphia on Tuesday, but he stopped everything the Flyers threw at him in a 1-0 shootout win.
"Nabby made some huge saves out there," Moulson said. "He’s got a lot of wins in this League, and that’s not for no reason. He’s a great goaltender in the clutch. You have a lot of confidence when your goalies are playing well."
If the Kings, now 26-19-11 and 1-3-1 on a six-game trip that ends Sunday in Dallas, miss the playoffs, the point they didn’t get Saturday will be one they’ll remember. L.A. outshot the Islanders 35-25, had 68 attempted shots to 46 for the Islanders and won 37 of 57 faceoffs, but ultimately could put just one puck past Nabokov.
Lack of scoring continues to be a problem for the Kings.
"We’ve got to find ways to score," captain Dustin Brown said. "Our goalies have been good all year. We’ve got to find ways to score two goals. If we score two goals, we win the game. We had more chances, more opportunities than them. It was one pretty good individual effort on the overtime goal, and that’s it."
The win was a boon for the Islanders, who lost 4-2 at home to Montreal on Thursday when a victory would have moved them over the break-even mark at this stage of the season for the first time in four years. They have another chance when Florida comes to the Coliseum on Sunday afternoon.
Streit said the Islanders will have to put out a better effort to beat the Panthers.
"We have to play better than we did today," he said. "After the loss to Montreal, we wanted to respond. We had a good first period, but those turnovers are killing us. We have way too many turnovers – instead of getting the puck deep, we try (to do) too much, and it almost cost us the game. Thanks to Nabby – he kept us in the game. We battled through it, but we have to be smarter with our puck management."
The Islanders opened the scoring at 6:52 on Michael Grabner’s 15th goal of the season and first in nine games. Mark Eaton’s slapper from the top of the circle hit the leg of Kings forward Trent Hunter in front of the net and caromed to Grabner in the lower left circle. He slid the puck into a wide-open net.
The Kings dominated the second half of the period, finishing the first 20 minutes with a 12-8 advantage in shots, but were unable to beat Nabokov despite nine giveaways by the Islanders and an 11-5 edge in the faceoff circle. Nabokov’s best stop came with 4:15 left when he stopped Mike Richards from the right circle after a takeaway by Jordan Nolan – son of former Islanders coach Ted Nolan.
The Kings continued to dominate play in the early stages of the second period and were rewarded at 5:20 when Andrei Loktionov scored his first of the season to tie the game 1-1. Nabokov stopped Rob Scuderi’s blast from the left circle but couldn’t control the rebound. Brown fired it at the net and Loktionov got a piece of the shot as it tucked inside the far post.
The Kings kept pressing, outshooting the Islanders 12-4 and controlling play – but couldn’t beat Nabokov again.
"They took it to us in the second period," Isles coach Jack Capuano said, "They tilted the ice. We were fortunate that Nabby made some big saves for us."
Quick came up big four minutes into the third period, robbing John Tavares during a power-play scramble. He also robbed Frans Nielsen on a one-timer from the slot with 8:23 left in regulation. Nabokov was also sharp in the final period and got a break when he was able to cover the puck in the crease after Willie Mitchell’s left-point slapper beat him but rang the post.
In the end, the play that Streit made and the Kings didn’t was the difference.
"I thought we played a good game," Brown said. "We’ve just got to find a way to score goals. I thought we played a really good game and couldn’t find a way to score goals. That’s it, really. We’ve got to score goals."
Added Richards: "I think the most frustrating part of getting opportunities is not finishing. The goaltender can only make so many saves. We’ve got to put the puck in the net. We should be confident in one-goal games, but we just have to bear down a little more, whether it’s one hit or one shot, and find ways to win."
Before the game, the Islanders inducted defenseman Kenny Jonsson into their Hall of Fame. Jonsson spent nine seasons with the Islanders before returning to Sweden in 2004 to finish his career. It was also a homecoming for Hunter, who spent eight seasons with the Isles before being traded to New Jersey last summer. The Devils bought him out, and he made the Kings after receiving an invitation to training camp.