The New York Islanders dodged disaster the last two games with third-period comebacks that resulted in earning three out of a possible four points against the Vancouver Canucks and Dallas Stars.
On Thursday night, the Islanders will look to officially make their homestand against Western Conference foes a resounding success when they host the Los Angeles Kings in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Both teams had a day off after playing Tuesday, when the Islanders edged the Stars 4-3 in overtime and the visiting Kings fell to the Washington Capitals, 4-2.
For the Islanders, it was the second straight game in which they forced OT with a late goal. Brock Nelson ensured New York a point by scoring with 25.1 seconds left in what turned out to be a 4-3 loss to the Canucks on Saturday. On Tuesday, Nelson had a game-tying goal overturned due to goalie interference on Anders Lee with 5:27 left before Mathew Barzal scored the equalizer with 3:59 remaining.
Anthony Beauvillier then scored on a breakaway with 2:08 left in the extra period to give the Islanders a little bit of breathing room in a packed Eastern Conference playoff race. New York has 66 points and two games in hand on the Carolina Hurricanes and Toronto Maple Leafs, who are tied for ninth place in the East entering Wednesday’s action with 63 points.
“Every point right now is crucial,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said afterward. “We have a couple games in hand on some teams. They don’t mean anything unless you win them, but if you win them, you put a lot of pressure on the other teams.”
The third period was decidedly less enjoyable Tuesday night for the Kings, who led the Eastern Conference-leading Capitals 2-1 with less than seven minutes left before Washington superstar Alex Ovechkin scored a natural hat trick in a span of 4:24.
It marked the 10th time this season the Kings have lost a game in which it was tied or leading in the third period. Such struggles have made the difference between contending for a wild card spot and playing out the string for Los Angeles, whose 43 points are the fewest in the Western Conference and second fewest in the NHL ahead of only the Detroit Red Wings.
“It’s happened all year to us,” Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said after the game. “We’ve got to win these games. That’s the bottom line. We win some of those this year, even half of them, I bet you we’re only five points out of a playoff spot.”
A pair of No. 1 goalies are likely to oppose each other Thursday night. Semyon Varlamov, who gradually wrested control of the Islanders’ starting job from Thomas Greiss during the first half of the season, made his first start since Jan. 18 on Tuesday night and earned the win by making 28 saves.
Jonathan Quick started in net for the Kings for the third time in four games Tuesday night, when he took the loss after recording 20 saves.
Varlamov is 9-6-3 in 18 regular season games against the Kings while Quick is 6-3-2 in 11 games against the Islanders.
–Field Level Media