Barry Trotz called it a testament to the character in the room, as the New York Islanders rallied from two separate deficits to beat the Los Angeles Kings 5-3 on Thursday night at Barclays Center.
The Isles collected a crucial two points that returned them to third place in the Metropolitan Division standings (68 points) and extended their point streak to five games (3-0-2). The win was highlighted by rookie Kieffer Bellows, who found the back of the net twice as he scored his first NHL goal and also scored the game-winner. Michael Dal Colle, Matt Martin and Anders Lee also scored, while Thomas Greiss made 22 saves in the win.
"This was a big game for us," Trotz said. "We had to battle back and win a hockey game. It's the third time in a row we've had to do that. That shows a lot about our room. The best example of that was the empty net goal."
Video: Bellows nets first career goals in Islanders' 5-3 win
Despite being outshot 7-5, the Kings took a 2-0 lead in the first period as a result of two uncharacteristic mistakes on the Islanders behalf. A poor line change gave the Kings optimal time in space as they broke into the Isles zone. Adrian Kempe curled the puck around the left faceoff circle and found Hutton in the slot. Virtually uncovered, Hutton beat Greiss stick side with a low wrister.
Los Angeles doubled its lead with 2:40 left in the period as Brock Nelson relinquished a costly turnover at the Islanders blueline. Alex Iafallo forechecked a blindsided Nelson, jumped the play and snapped his wrist shot past Greiss.
The Isles started to turn the tide early in the second period, getting on the board at 1:40. Johnny Boychuk blasted a point shot off Dal Colle's skate to put the Isles on the board. The goal was Dal Colle's fourth of the season, and extended his point streak to three games (2G, 1A).
Video: LAK@NYI: Dal Colle redirects Boychuk's blast
The Kings restored their two-goal lead 7:09 in the second period as they capitalized on yet another costly mistake. Michael Amadio intercepted Noah Dobson's attempted clear and set up Trevor Lewis for an easy tap-in goal to make it 3-1 Los Angeles.
While down by two goals, the Isles stayed the course and showed resilience; a common thread of their identity this season. Bellows put the Isles back within one goal as he scored his first NHL goal. The winger buried a slick cross-crease feed from Anthony Beauvillier on the doorstep to revive the Isles and narrow the score 3-2. On the play, Beauvillier extended his point streak to four games with five points (3G, 2A) during that span.
The Isles evened the score 23 seconds into the third period, as Martin collected Devon Toews' initial shot from the point and buried a backhand past Quick to tie the score 3-3. Toews, who suited up in his 100th-career game, recorded his third assist in as many games. Ryan Pulock also assisted on Martin's goal and registered his 100th-career point. Through 218 games, the defenseman has 27 goals and 73 assists.
Video: LAK@NYI: Bellows nets first goal of his NHL career
The Isles were buzzing after evening the score up and the Kings retaliated as Drew Doughty threw a high hit on Casey Cizikas. Cizikas shared a few exchanges with Doughty and Alec Martinez before he and Martinez opted to drop the gloves. Both Cizikas and Martinez were assessed with five-minute penalties for fighting, while Doughty went to the box for roughing. Cizikas was also administered an additional two-minute penalty for roughing.
After returning to five-on-five, the Isles were pressuring in LA's zone, Brassard threw a lofty puck across the crease that Bellows grabbed off of the boards and instinctively threw towards the net. Quick was out of position, so Bellows snapped his shot on a tough angle to give the Isles the go-ahead 5-3 goal.
Los Angeles pulled Quick for the final two-minutes of play. With 13 seconds left in the game, Lee sealed the Isles victory 5-3. The Isles captain displayed a desperate effort to grab a rebound and bury it in the open net as he flew into the end boards.
"Some guys would go, 'I don't really want to mark myself up for this,'" Trotz said. "Usually guys will mark themselves up for a goal, but he knew if he didn't get [the goal] in they'd have a chance to win or at least get it tied. He wanted to make sure he nailed it shut."
Video: LAK@NYI: Lee beats defender for empty-netter
BELLOWS SCORES FIRST AND SECOND NHL GOALS:
In just his second NHL game, Bellows buried his first-career goal, and then went on to score his second goal of the night, which wound up being the game-winner.
"That was a pretty special moment," Bellows said. "I was pretty speechless at the time and didn't know what to do. Once I got back to the bench it was forget about it, move on and focus on the next shift."
While the Isles had a rocky first period, Bellows showcased his sharp release. Bellows had two looks on net, including one crisp wrist shot on the fly that got Quick to make a lateral slide.
Bellows earned his first NHL recall on Feb. 3 after showcasing a tremendous effort and leading the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in goals (16) and points (24). For the second game, Bellows has played on the wing of the Isles third line consisting of Brassard and Dal Colle and is making a sturdy case for coach Trotz to keep him there.
"He shows that he can skate in the league when you're engaged and when you're working hard," Trotz said. "I know he has enough intelligence and calmness in his game and understanding of the game. He's hard on pucks. He gives me no reason to think he couldn't do it."
THIRD LINE REJUVENATED:
The Isles have searched for pairings to get that line to help with production all season and have gone through ebbs and flows. Since Bellows joined Brassard and Dal Colle, the trio seems to have clicked. Brassard has three points (1G, 2A) in the past two games, while Dal Colle has a goal and an assist over that span.
"Honestly, we just kind of played," Brassard said of their performance tonight. "It felt like after 2-0 someone or some line had to step up. We scored that goal there."
For a sharpshooter like Bellows, the transition to playing alongside the intelligent likes of Brassard and Dal Colle has gone smooth. The line provides the Isles a boost in energy and has used their sneaky creativity to generate threats
"I think it's just our work ethic and the way we forecheck," Bellows said. "We just play simple hockey. We don't try to make things too complicated. We don't try to be too fancy. We let our skills show when we need to. I think it's the hard work that our line has."
The Islanders embark on a two-game road trip starting on Saturday night in Tampa Bay. Puck drop is at 7 p.m.