Three first period goals helped the New York Islanders to their third straight win on Thursday, as they downed the LA Kings 5-2 at Barclays Center.
The Islanders improved to 25-2-0 when scoring three-or-more goals, but business was by no means taken care of after Anders Lee scored the Isles’ third – and eventual winner. The Islanders had to protect their lead over the final 40 minutes, holding off the NHL’s best comeback team.
“They’re both good signs,” John Tavares said of the Islanders ability to build a solid lead and protect it. “You need both to win hockey games.”
Johnny Boychuk, Casey Cizikas and Lee built the Islanders first period lead, each finding the back of the net by the 14 minute mark.
They each scored how you’d expect. Boychuk teed up a howitzer – his second in three games – from the right side, Cizikas went to the net and potted home a Matt Martin rebound while Lee posted up in front of the net and deflected a Nick Leddy point shot past Jhonas Enroth.
“We got off to a quick start,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “The puck had eyes on the Boychuk goal. The power play came up big for us with Anders Lee in front of the net, but [the Kings] made a push.”
The Kings got on the board midway through the second period. Thomas Greiss, who had 28 saves for his fourth straight win, stopped Jordan Nolan’s sharp-angled shot, but Kyle Clifford poked the puck through his legs at 11:10.
“They still got that one goal and they were pushing,” Boychuk said. “We were a little bit sleepy when they were pushing and got that goal. After that we just tried to play simple.”
The next goal would be crucial and the Islanders acted quickly.
Tavares corralled a chip from Ryan Strome and settled the puck down on a two-on-one rush with Mikhail Grabovski. A top-tier playmaker, Tavares opted for the shot, and rifled a laser over Jhonas Enroth’s shoulder just under the crossbar, putting the Islanders up 4-1.
“I hit him in the shoulder in a similar spot earlier in the game,” Tavares said. “I was just coming in on my off wing, had a good read and was able to hit the corner.”
The goal – Tavares’ 20th of the season – was his second point of the night, another good omen as the Islanders improved to 11-0-0 when the captain scores two-or-more points in a game.
Still, the Islanders couldn’t let their guard down. The Kings entered the game with a league-high six wins when trailing after two and made things interesting in the third. Milan Lucic kicked the puck towards the goal line and just touched it with his stick before it crossed – turning an illegal play into a legal one – making it a 4-2 game with 10:09 to play.
Whatever tension remained, Travis Hamonic put to bed with a long-range, shorthanded empty-netter. The Islanders took a 5-2 lead right down to the final horn and took two key points in the standings.
“Every win is huge,” Tavares said.
Tavares Reacts to Win Over Kings
Capuano: Special Teams Came Up Huge
Boychuk, Cizikas and Greiss Postgame